Big-Name Chefs Moving into Roles at School Cafeterias

Posted by Patrick Maness +

Widely regarded as one of the top five restaurants in the world, Noma, located in Copenhagen, Denmark, is one of those bold, creative enterprises that fuses flavors and ingredients in unexpected — and deliciously successful — ways.

Needless to say, such a restaurant attracts only the best talent, and it’s the ambition of many chefs to work their way into such a highly esteemed environment.

This is what happened with Dan Guisti, a New Jersey-born American who worked for two years as the head chef at Noma.

Most would think that after such a position the next logical step would be for him to start his own internationally renowned restaurant.

Instead he returned to America and founded a company called Brigaid, which aims to bring chefs into school cafeterias so they can help develop an efficient and economical restaurant kitchen model to provide nutritious and delicious food to students.

The need for healthier school lunches

Guisti is largely motivated to change school lunches because, as most people know, the nutritional value and quality of school lunches is sadly lacking.

His goal is to bring in chefs who are not only able to cook, but can also manage a staff with minimal training, educate students about the food they're eating, and can make others excited about all of this.

The first pilot program will begin in the 2016-2017 school year with six chefs in the New London Connecticut  school district.

Other attempts

Most famously, in 2010, British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver made an attempt to turn around the Los Angeles school district’s food program (and film a reality TV show in the process). Things didn’t turn out so well. Administrators resisted the idea of filming a television show in schools and the kids didn’t really like the food he made.


The major challenge school lunch programs have always faced is how to feed a large number of children for a minimal cost. Currently, the US Department of Agriculture reimburses school districts $3.07 for free meals.

Guisti’s challenge is to develop meals for $1.35 or less.

Not only is this price point intimidating, but the system is also bound together by a number of bureaucracies and private corporations. There are many special interests and people who have made their careers out of doing things a certain way. This creates hurdles at all levels and makes any kind of change frustratingly slow.

Still, many chefs are drawn to these challenges. They see them as invitations to put their skills to use in a way that will positively affect the health and eating habits of thousands of children.

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