National team of chefs to collaborate with APS students on school lunches

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A national team of chefs will be working with students in the Albuquerque area to cook up excitement in school lunches.

The chefs are doing this by going into schools finding out what kids like or dislike and what they’d like to see offered going forward.

Thursday morning, the team known as the Schwan’s Chef Collective will be meeting with Rio Grande High School students in brainstorming sessions to develop new nutritious school meals.

“What the operators thought their favorite meals were, wasn’t the case when we talked to the students. It was exactly the opposite. It was an eye opener for them in their schools and their operations because what they thought was their kids’ favorite, wasn’t quite their favorite,” said Chef Craig Claude.

That was one of the biggest eye-openers chefs learned last year at a school district in Minnesota.

Albuquerque Public Schools is only the second district to try this program.

Officials say Schwan’s reached out to APS because of its diversity and the number of students who are dependent on school lunches.

Chefs will be working with six students on a panel asking them what is their favorite meal and least favorite meal Thursday.

Those ideas will then be developed into short recipes, with six ingredients or less. The recipes will also be something easy for school cafeteria staff to prepare.

How do these chefs work around dietary guidelines and a budget?

“We look at how we can help them utilize their commodity food. An example would be their shredded chicken. How do you develop a new dish that they can use their fully cooked shredded chicken or diced chicken? We look at that commodity list and come to them. Here’s how you can help use those commodities you have available to you,” said Chef Claude.

Chef Claude says they will come back to Albuquerque to train cafeteria staff. If the recipes are a success, students will see them next school year.

The chefs will also be out at Kirtland Elementary Thursday night, cooking alongside students at their “Homework Diner” community event.

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