Healthy Flavors,
Healthy Kids

2013 Leadership Summit

Chef Scott Samuel

The 3rd Annual Healthy Flavors, Healthy Kids National Leadership Summit

The 2013 Summit brought a new level of focus to K-12 school nutrition programs.

Cooking from the Front Door to the Back

May 20, 2013
Sanna Delmonico, MS, RD
Nutrition Instructor and Culinary Nutrition Consultant, Strategic Initiatives The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone

Our third annual Healthy Flavors, Healthy Kids National Leadership Summit was held May 7-9, 2013, at the CIA's San Antonio campus. This year, we refined our focus from general children's nutrition to K-12  school nutrition programs, recognizing that this is an area with significant challenges and opportunities, and with tremendously dedicated, talented and passionate professionals working hard for our kids. The program was planned with direction and assistance from our newly formed National School Foodservice Advisory Council, co-chaired by Dr. Janey Thornton (USDA) and Dr. Katie Wilson (National Food Service Management Institute).

As the Summit began on Tuesday evening, three chefs took the stage to demonstrate recipes inspired by world spices. Ron DeSantis, CMC, tempted us with Mediterranean flavors, Suvir Saran got us laughing and learning about Indian spices, and Rick Bayless showed us the vegetable-focused side of Mexican cuisine. During his presentation, Rick said that his approach to cooking is always to "cook from the front door to the back." In other words, he keeps the people he cooks for as his top priority, thinking about their enjoyment of the food, as well as their healthfulness and nutrition. In school foodservice, just as in Rick's restaurants, flavor, visual appeal, and deliciousness must be chief considerations, with food cost, labor cost, and (in the case of school foodservice) reimbursement, never superseding the enjoyment of the customers—the children.

Cooking from the front door to the back is what those who work in school foodservice do every day, and our Healthy Flavors, Healthy Kids demonstrations, hands-on kitchen sessions, and breakout sessions over the three-day summit supported that approach. For our speakers and attendees, cooking from the front door to the back means:

  • Knowing kids will try new things, and challenging them with world flavors, herbs, spices, textures, and foods that may not be familiar
  • Assuming kids will like, not dislike, well-prepared, flavorful whole grain items and vegetables
  • Using USDA Foods in a variety of creative, nutritious ways
  • Developing flavor with culinary techniques, such as roasting and browning
  • Presenting food beautifully so that children are eager to taste it
  • Developing solutions for the challenge of providing local vegetables in cold winter climates, by preserving and freezing during the summer
  • Forming partnerships between parents, teachers, suppliers, farmers, manufacturers, nutrition professionals and chefs
  • Inspiring children with the passion and dedication for nourishing the next generation, deliciously

I'll leave you with another memorable and amusing quote from Rick: "If there is something wrong with a dish, it can usually be solved with a small amount of pork."