Local Chefs Help . . .

. . . School Cafeteria Workers Hone Their Skills

Habersham Schools no longer echo with the chatter and bustle of students each day.  But in recent days there has been a burst of new activity in one school’s kitchen where local chefs, Barrie Aycock & Lindsey Payne, are giving training to the district’s cafeteria workers. 

“We call it professional development for our food service workers” said Andrea Thomas, nutrition director for Habersham County.  The first Farm to School lesson started with an awareness section on what products our farmers grow in this region and the economic impact a school system can have on its community with purchasing locally grown products.

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The second lesson focused on professional knife skills. Chef Payne, puts a high priority on having good, sharp knives in the kitchen, and knowing how to use them. “If you don’t have a tool chest full of the right tools, you’re really not going to be happy with the job you’re doing because you’re going to be forcing something else to do the job. A sharp knife prepares you to do every job every time.”

Chef Aycock also stressed the importance of food safety, washing and storage of fresh farm produce. From there, the chefs led the staff through their own practice session, demonstrating different ways of cutting fruits, vegetables and fresh herbs to make them look more appealing, and having them practice on their own in a top chef slaw competition. Each team developed from a slaw recipe using local cabbage and other given products.

Barrie Aycock, retired executive chef and former owner of Glen-Ella Springs Inn & Restaurant had been reading about farm to school program and stepped up to serve as a farm to school chef for NEGA.  “I am excited about the potential impact this program can have on our community and our children’s health. Fresher food in the cafeteria equals more nutritious and tasty food for the students” says Chef Aycock.

“Farm to School works when the community steps up and gets involved. It takes the the farmer growing the crop and our volunteers who assisting with school gardens, cafeteria taste test and teachers willing to teach lessons in the gardens so students get the connection of where their food comes from and the have the experience of tasting fresh local produce. We applaud, Chef Aycock and Payne, they volunteer their expertise and time to make sure the nutrition staff is comfortable and safe with the farm products coming into the school’s kitchen” says Teri Hamlin, Northeast Georgia Farm to School Coordinator.  Future trainings will include new recipes for school breakfast and lunches.  Raymona Bell, Nutrition Manager at South Habersham Middle School, said she’s enjoying the lessons and looks forward to working with local farmers and their products.

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