Healthy School Lunches

Let’s take a second to get this blog back on track. The whole point of starting this blog back in 2006 was to give you a sense of my experiences becoming a chef, and now chef instructor. And I’ve realized that most of my recent posts haven’t been about that at all. So it’s time to bring you up to speed.

This is how we roll burritos kids. Now go yell at the people at Chipotle!

As I continue to try and find more venues in which to teach, I reached out to my local Whole Foods Market to see if they wanted me to do some cooking classes there. I knew this was something they did, as my executive chef at Open Kitchen – Chef Bernard – taught a class there himself one afternoon. (While I was left to man the restaurant of course…)

Upon becoming an independent cooking instructor, an email was quickly fired off to Whole Foods asking if I could teach there. It received no response. It wasn’t until I went into the Whole Foods in my chef’s coat to buy some branzino for a class that someone stopped me and asked if I was a chef. I said I was indeed, and she introduced herself as Claire, the new head of the cooking classes at that Whole Foods.

I guess that explains the lack of response: I was firing emails to an unread inbox.

Was I really holding the attention of children while cooking? Unheard of!

Long story short, she asked if I would be interested in teaming up with a local elementary school to do a presentation on healthy school lunches. Well, even though this was for no pay, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to do something so linked to my cooking idol, Jamie Oliver. I whipped up some recipes, and we held a pair of classes last night for kids and adults alike.

The real challenge was to see if the kids would like it. And by “it,” I mean the presentation as well as the food. Well, asking kids what their least favorite food was helped to break the ice as many hands shot up into the air to exclaim that they hated broccoli, Brussels sprouts and onions. (The one kid who said she hated “Peanut Butter and Jelly” took me by surprise I have to admit…)

But making dips for fruits and veggies, black bean and rice burritos and pasta salad all were a ton of fun in front of the kids, and they loved it! The highlight of the evening for me was when I walked around the tables after one demonstration and there was a child of 4 years old devouring her fruit with my yogurt dip on it. I asked the parents how they liked everything, and they just kept staring at the kid eating the fruit. I looked at the kid and asked, “So, you like that?” She nodded, and kept on eating.

I looked back at the parents, and without taking their eyes off her they said in total amazement, “She’s eating FRUIT!! She NEVER does that!!” I looked back at the kid, who fired down two more pieces of cantaloupe.

So very cute.

I’m going to call that a success.

And while I want to thank everyone at Whole Foods for being so accommodating to me, and the PTA at Chesterbrook Elementary for being nice enough to invite me, I want to say a special thank you to the kids who made me a wonderful thank-you card that they all signed.

Sorry, I think I have something in my eye…

Chef Matt

PS Since that recipe for my yogurt dip was such a hit, here it is for you all as well!

Sweet Yogurt Dipping Sauce
This sauce mixes together a series of flavors that go wonderfully with yogurt. Be sure to use Greek yogurt which is lower in moisture, and makes for a better dipping sauce.

Yield: ~2 cups

2 cups Greek Yogurt (low fat)
3-4 Tbsp honey
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp fresh lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract

-Mix together yogurt and 3 Tbsp honey in a medium sized bowl. Taste and see if the sweetness is at the desired level. If not, add more honey until the yogurt is as sweet as you like.
-Stir in the cinnamon, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla. Taste again and adjust for sweetness if desired.
-Store in an airtight container in the fridge, and use as a dipping sauce with any fresh fruit or on Graham crackers.

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3 Responses to “Healthy School Lunches”

  1. Swan says:

    I love that you got to teach this class! I know healthy eating and ESPECIALLY children’s diets are important to you. (Just like your culinary idol, Jamie Oliver.) I hope the kids ask their parents to make the recipes with them–such good family bonding time with a WONDERFUL result!

  2. I think it’s great that you taught this class. I’m sure the children enjoyed it as much as the parents appreciate. One should always take the opportunity to educate when they have a chance, especially our children. You know…Pay it Forward. You never know when one of those “no pay” situations will benefit you in the long run. You may have discovered a new niche…teaching parents and grandparents how to interact in the kitchen with their children and grandchildren. Ours love to cook with us. It can get messy though. Just a thought. Really enjoy the human side of your blog. Will look for more recipes.

  3. My kids love to dip..I will have to try this recipe and see if I get as good a reception as you did. I have a feeling that when their mom gives it to them, they will turn up their noses. But if a chef handed it to them, they would eat it up! Coming to Texas any time soon?