Farm-to-School Workshops in Atlanta, GA Part 1

Farm-to-School Workshops In Atlanta, GA Part 1

Thu 28 Jun 2012

Story by Jim Brams

The Cook’s Warehouse Farm-to-School Workshops in Atlanta, GA, U.S.A.

It all started with a project assignment in kitchen designer Matthew Rao’s self- expression and leadership class: Produce a project that improves a community in your world.

Rao, kitchen designer for The Cook’s Warehouse, thought the kids in his local schools needed better meals with locally grown fruits and vegetables.

So he asked his client and friend, Mary Moore, for help. Moore is founder and CEO of The Cook’s Warehouse, four Atlanta-area cookware and cooking-class stores in Georgia USA that are innovative and highly successful. The cooking school conducts more than 800 classes yearly.

Moore suggested Erin Croom, the Farm-to-School Coordinator at Georgia Organics. Rao and Croom realized it wasn’t hard to get fresh ingredients into the schools but that the cafeteria personnel needed training to best utilize fresh fruits and produce in their kitchens, since with so much pre-prepared and pre-cooked food in school kitchens today, the knowledge of how to work with fresh food was missing.

The trio found a receptive partner in Alison Goodman, director of the City of Decatur (GA) Schools Food Service Program. Goodman knew there would be a receptive ear on the part of the school system and the parents, but that there were budget concerns on top of the normal fear of change that moving to a fresh-food-based school lunch program would present. And so began The Cook’s Warehouse Farm-to-School workshop program, beginning with the Decatur City Schools.

First, a committee was formed of members from The Cook’s Warehouse, Georgia Organics, four volunteer chefs and representatives from Decatur City Schools’ cafeteria department. The committee met and picked available dates for the cafeteria staff to begin lessons, on in-service days that the teachers receive instruction themselves.

Working with a small district allowed the entire cafeteria staff from its two base kitchens to arrive at Cook’s largest store and teaching kitchen to begin the series.

In order, the workshops taught:

• Knife skills and seasoning food properly.

This first class included gifts to the staff of a knife roll donated by Messermeister with an 8” chef’s knife; a pastry brush, carbon steel peeler, pastry scraper and CW cap from The Cook’s Warehouse, and Cuisinart subsidized the cost of three food processors for the base kitchen.

Decatur Mayor Bill Floyd addressed the group.

• Quick and tasty, low-fat/healthy recipes that adapt well to large numbers.

The group cooked chicken, watermelon and feta salad; roasted fresh tomato sauce over pasta; oven-roasted chicken with tomato jus and mashed potatoes, and apple and blueberry cobblers with whipped cream. The recipes used low-fat ingredients and culinary tricks, such as whipping the potatoes with freshly made chicken stock instead of butter or milk, and the use of fresh herbs to allow full-flavor dishes with a lower salt content.

Brad Bryant, Georgia State Department of Education superintendent, addressed the group as well as Amanda Dew Manning, program manager-School Nutrition Program of the Georgia Department of Education, and Meagan Mohammadione, clinical dietician of the Emory Bariatric Center.

• A presentation of quick, tasty and healthy recipes for Thanksgiving.

The menu included roast turkey with gravy; sweet potato soufflé; garden salad with homemade ranch, bleu cheese and Caesar dressings; corn bread, corn bread dressing and corn bread salad; roasted vegetables, and pumpkin pie and apple crisp.

Bernadette J. Seals, board member of the Decatur City Schools, gave a short speech to the group reminiscing that both her mother and aunt had worked in school foodservice. She reminded everyone of the importance of a well-nourished child in the schoolroom and the pride each cook should feel being on the front line of this task.

End of Part 1; Part 2 begins with the next lesson!

About the author: Jim Brams, the public relations director for The Cook’s Warehouse, is a lifelong writer and PR man. He has been a member of the Public Relations Society of America member for 30 years and lives in Atlanta, GA, USA.


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