Aug 21, 2014
12:43 PM
Connecticut Today

New Haven School Cooks Learn Kid-Friendly Food Techniques at ‘Boot Camp’

New Haven School Cooks Learn Kid-Friendly Food Techniques at ‘Boot Camp’

Mara Lavitt

The New Haven schools food services held a boot camp at the Central Kitchen for returning lead school cooks, getting them up to speed on new techniques and food items. From left, Barri Bolden, food services director Gail Sharry, Haydee Ortiz and Krima Byrd crack up at the sandwich-making station.

Many cooks in the public school system liken their biggest challenges to those of parents, including getting children to eat their vegetables.

“You’re a mother, you’re everything to the kids, not only a cook,” said Toni Daddio, lead cook at Fair Haven School. “You mentor kids and you hear their problems.”

Toward the goal of feeding students, at Wednesday’s first-ever “Boot Camp” for area food service workers, about 15 cooks from each school met to learn new recipes, share techniques and tips of the trade before the school year started. Cooks broke into groups and rotated between cooking at four stations. These included a pizza station, a salad bar, a pasta and sandwich station and a knife seminar.

Their goal was to find new ways to introduce students to vegetables and find more “kid-friendly” ways to present them, New Haven Public Schools Production Manager David Prescott said. For example, the group was testing zucchini sticks and shredded carrots.

Prescott said the cooks also were working on presentation skills for hot dishes, such as pasta, which may need to be garnished in a certain way to look more appealing to students.

“If it looks good, chances are kids will have more of a chance of trying it,” he said.

As Truman School cook Betty Alford arranged the test salad bar, she pointed out each vegetable that her kids would eat — but only dipped or covered in ranch dressing.

“If you put it out there plain, they aren’t going to touch it,” Alford said, laughing.

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New Haven School Cooks Learn Kid-Friendly Food Techniques at ‘Boot Camp’

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