Culinary Students Partner to Improve School Lunches

School cafeteria food has been a subject of ridicule in movies and television alike. But three students from Timber Creek have partnered with the cafeteria chefs to revitalize the menu and add fresh, healthy, and — most importantly — tasty food.

Students in the culinary practicum courses are working with Sodexo, Keller ISD’s vendor for school nutrition, to develop new recipes for the district’s 38 campuses.

“They give us insight as to what it is students like,” said Chef Leo, the overseer for the nutrition departments at all the Keller ISD schools. “At the end of the day, you guys are our customers. If you don’t walk through the door, we don’t have business.”

Three of the students in the program are Benny Lucero, Dustin Regalado, and Hassan Jordan. All of them have their reasons for working in the program.

“I love cooking and it’s always been a passion, so when I joined high school I got the opportunity to become a cook and go through with Chef Leo,” Jordan said.

“We started the program really more to change the food in the cafeteria,” Lucero said. The goals for student chefs were to make it healthy and taste better at the same time.

The program is a challenge for the chefs-in-training as each recipe has to not only fit in the federal and state restrictions for school nutrition, but also has to be able to be replicated in elementary, intermediate, and high schools.

“Some of the challenges were simplicity, keeping with the staff over in the cafeteria, and also trying to balance out flavors so we would meet the guidelines for sodium and low fat,” Regalado said.

The student-developed recipes have to go through a set of tests to make sure they are able to be used by the various schools. The primary challenge is simple — taste. Other students will taste-test the dishes to see which ones pass the ultimate goal — what students would like to see on the menu.

“If we’re handing out free samples, don’t be afraid to come take them,” Lucero said. “We’re making these recipes and we’re re-doing it all so that you guys have a better lunch experience.”

These students have already finished one recipe, and are hoping to add it to the cafeteria menu.

“So far, we’ve been pretty successful with most of our recipes,” Regalado said.

“We’re possibly even getting a recipe put into place for all of the Keller ISD schools,” Jordan said.

When asked if seniors can expect to see the recipe in the cafeteria by the end of the year, Lucero answered “Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.”

Emily Gogle

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Emily Gogle is a student reporter and the Student Life Editor for the Timber Creek Talon.