Chef Sharon Schaefer Mastering Menu Development

Full Transcript

Dalia 

Hi, Chef. Sharon, thank you so much for joining me. I really appreciate you carving out the time.

Chef Sharon   

Thanks for inviting me. I'm excited to have this talk.

Dalia  

So I know most people already are familiar with who you are and what you do. But could you tell me for the people who don't know a little bit about how you ended up in school nutrition? I know, this isn't where you started.

Chef Sharon 

Absolutely. Just like so many other people in school nutrition, I landed here completely by accident. When I went to culinary school, I had no idea that school nutrition was such an exciting career path. But I started to really become interested in how you should feed kids when I became a mom. So I made my own baby food and eventually little toddler meal. I ended up working in Whole Foods, being a culinary instructor to teach other moms, and from that little interest of how to nourish my own children's bodies. I started to look at what would happen when they went to preschool and eventually elementary school. And I heard of school nutrition. And it dawned on me that this was so exciting for me to feed my kids and then teach other people how to feed their kids, that this would be a perfect marriage of my culinary background and that new passion that I had found through motherhood. 

Dalia  

That is excellent. That is an interesting perspective. Were you really health oriented before you had your children or that came after?

Chef Sharon 

I was very health oriented because my parents made me be. We had a farm now I live in Nebraska but I grew up in New Jersey. So I thought we lived on a farm. But honestly, it was a petting zoo. It was like three pigs a chicken coop a rabbit hutch, we had a cow at some point, two horses a duck. It was just kind of a backyard fiasco. Yeah. But I thought that it was a farm. And we basically raised as much as possible that we consumed ourselves. And my parents just chose to do that at a really young age before it was popular. And then in 1983, they decided decided to start eating a macrobiotic diet. And that's because my grandma was diagnosed with cancer. And she was put on that diet. And they looked at it as it saved my grandmother's life. So this would be preventative care for their children. And when I was a young adult, I realized I liked the idea of healthy food. But my parents cooking was really, really bad, really bad. And when I would visit friends houses or aunts and uncles, their food was delicious. So I went to culinary school originally because I wanted to figure out how I could have the best of both worlds. How do you make things taste amazing, without losing sight of the concept that we're putting this inside of our body? It's literally becoming us. And I used to say silly things when I was young, like I don't want cotton candy hair. I want strawberry hair. You know, just that, just that idea of it. 

Dalia   

That is totally what you want to hear kids say though? I could see that melting any dietitians heart if they heard a kid say that, that's the goal. 

Chef Sharon   

Yeah. And my parents were very, very good at making us feel like all of our food decisions, fueled our body fueled our health gave us stamina. I grew up with that as our family philosophy. So when I came into motherhood, I wanted that for my kids, but I also wanted birthday parties to be fun.  And I wanted their food to taste good. So I tried to find maybe a little bit more of a balance of what the average American diet was and what my childhood diet was.

Dalia   

What are some of the keys to that? I mean, that's a really major undertaking. There's so many people trying to do just that, like add flavor without adding any health adverse ingredients. Can you kind of break that down into the basic rules of how you make food taste good and be healthy at the same time.

Chef Sharon 

 Yeah, I think a lot of it comes down to learning very, very good and proper cooking techniques, like roasting, if you understand the concept of roasting. Once you get it you don't even need a recipe. Whatever you're roasting, it's a dry heat cooking method. So that means you want it on a shallow pan like a cookie sheet if you're home or a sheet pan when you're in a professional kitchen. You don't want the pan overcrowded. You want room for hot air to circulate, and it draws out the natural sugar in products whether it's a chicken breast, a carrot stick, yes you can roast carrot sticks, they're delicious, french fries. You can roast so many things root vegetables. You can roast broccoli. The natural sugar is drawn to the surface and caramelised so for children, they really have extra little fascination with things that are sweet. So if we can serve them, fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins that have that natural sweetness drawn out, that is normally a win for kids. The other one that I love to do is to use herbs and spices that they're already familiar with, basil, oregano, a little bit of thyme, not too much thyme to it, I call those my pizza spices. And if I'm using them either fresh or dried in different recipes, then I can call it pizza chicken or pizza salad or, you know, just different fun things like that. And I can teach the kids what the basil, oregano, and thyme taste like and then together it reminds them of their pizza.

Dalia  

I love that that's a lot of information right there. What are some sources that you can recommend, like that naming convention you just mentioned, that's really exciting. I have a lot of problems with creativity when it comes to recipe naming and menuing. Where do you think that just like out of your own head? Or is there anything else we could look at help us build that skill to?

Chef Sharon   

I can't take credit for it. Because I find that school nutrition in general has such a wealth of creative people. Facebook is a huge resource, there's so many wonderful groups where you can connect with other school nutrition professionals. So sometimes it pops in my head, pizza salad was the first time I put it together for myself, like oh my gosh, I can identify with these fresh or dried herbs with pizza, I think kids would like that. But there's plenty of other things like roasted root vegetables. In Oklahoma, they started calling it underground candy. And I got that name just from interacting and networking with other people. So if you take your one or two brilliant ideas, share them, but then look for everybody else's one or two brilliant ideas that we all can build better menus. 

Dalia   

That's awesome. You also mentioned if you're roasting at home, that you would use a shallow pan and then you said what you would use in a professional kitchen. Now this is one thing that's been tricky for me coming into school nutrition, having a background in nutrition only just more like the science side and not the practical professional kitchen element, is what the major differences are that you need to consider when you go from a home kitchen to a professional kitchen. And whether or not it's even possible to test your recipes at home. And then, you know, just assume that that information will carry over at the school. What pointers can you share about that?

Chef Sharon   

Sure, well, I think if you're taking a risk or trying something completely new, it is better to do it at home, just because it's a lot less devastating. If you make it for four, six, and you don't like the result. It's like maybe we're eating out tonight, kids eating, it's all good. It's not, it's not as big of an issue. So if you do a batch of four, or six or 10, whatever you're comfortable with at home, and you really like the result, then you can go ahead and use some culinary math. We did an article on it in school nutrition magazine, I can look up what month and what year it was, it wasn't that long ago. But it gave you how to do the culinary math to convert that recipe from a small batch to a large batch. And it's really not hard. If you like to use computers, you can have Excel do it for you. And if you don't like to use computers, you just use a calculator. So either way, it's easy to do. It's best if you try that recipe in your large batch three times, and it's even better if it's three times and not necessarily you every time, that gets you to the point where it's considered more of a standardized recipe, which means this recipe will be successful for a variety of people in a variety of circumstances, because none of our kitchens are built exactly the same. Everybody comes into our school kitchens with various backgrounds. So you want the wording to work for a variety of people and the tools that it refers to to work for a variety of people.

Dalia   

Okay, that makes a lot of sense. So three times, preferably not by the same person. So right, I know not all of the equipment is the same. That has been a little bit of a challenge for me, and that most manufacturers are not giving us directions for all the types of equipment that the different schools in our district have. Are there any basic rules about going from, I know the combi gives you the option to do dry, heat and cook with moisture. I don't even know that everybody knows where the directions are and I'm not entirely convinced that at every school everyone really knows how to use their equipment. So people tend to just use it one way. So if you have a recipe that originally was written for being cooked with moisture and then you go to dry heat do you basically need to just completely rework that recipe, there's no basic rule of thumb that you could apply like changing the cooking time or something?

Chef Sharon  

Well, it depends if you're going from a moist heat, it's telling you to steam something and you don't have a steamer or you don't know how to work your steamer, you can create steam in any oven, you could put a pan of water in the bottom of your oven and create steam, you could add water to the pan with the item and put a tight fitting lid or foil on it to create steam. So there's a couple of tricks that you can do that are probably a little bit more labor intensive, but you could pull it off if you had to. The hard one to do is if it says to roast, and you only have access to moist heat cooking. If you think about french fries, they're out of a box onto a sheet pan and then a hot oven. There's no way to put those fries into a steamer or any equipment that only does moist heat and get a good french fry. They're going to be mush, When you're trying to get that brown and crispy quality to your food, that's when you're really looking for a higher temperature and make sure you're not overcrowding your ovens or your pans.

Dalia   

Okay, that makes a lot of sense. Going from frozen to fresh if you have a recipe that originally the assumption was you would have fresh broccoli, but you end up with frozen. What are the changes you need to think about there?

Chef Sharon  

So if it's IQF, individually quick frozen, the pieces should be loose in that box, you should be able to almost like run your hands through the peas or carrots or broccoli. If it's a solid brick, one of two things happened either it's not IQF or it was at some point  and it thawed and refrozen. If you have more of a brick of vegetables, roasting it will be hard because you have all of that the ice and all of that moisture is going to be introduced. Even putting it in the oven, you're really steaming it. The frozen vegetables when you think about an ice cube tray when we were all little kids, and we didn't have refrigerators with ice makers, actually, I still don't have a refrigerator with an ice maker 

Dalia   

Mine keeps freezing up, it's there but I still have ice trays unfortunately 

Chef Sharon  

Yeah, we don't have the dispenser because we have kids and I don't want the hassle of the ice and the water everywhere. But so think back to when you're using an ice cube tray, you put the water in, if you overfill it, the ice cubes are bursting out of the seams because water expands when it freezes. So when we freeze those items, all of the water that's naturally found in those products, it expands. And it bursts the cell walls, it explodes the cell wall. So when you cook it, you've already had some of that fibrous tissue breakdown. Your frozen vegetables will normally overcook or get mushy faster than your fresh vegetables. When you cook your fresh vegetables, those cell walls are still intact. So it's more of a textural change. 

Dalia   

That is going to be so easy to remember that explanation is so clear. I think if I share that one people will get it.

Chef Sharon  

So a lot of times I'm cooking my fresh vegetables on a little bit of a lower temperature for a longer period of time. So I'm at a simmer for 25 minutes, as opposed to a rapid boil for 10 minutes.

Dalia  

Okay, that's awesome. Now I know you do a lot of hands on culinary training? Is this the type of information you typically share out the gate? What topics do you find people are requesting the most often for their staff?

Chef Sharon  

Sure, well, we hear a lot. I'm on the School Nutrition Association Chef Task Force with a handful of other amazing chefs around the country. We hear from a lot of people that it's still knief skills, that's the number one requested class. So just getting that comfort level, holding a knief  knowing which knife to use, keeping your hands safe, making sure your cutting board is stable and not wiggling all over your work surface and then getting those nice cuts to actually be consistent at a pretty fast pace. That's going to be a huge benefit to any school nutrition program. That's a class that that I offer and the other chefs in the task force offer quite a bit. We all live in different parts of the country. So it's kind of handy, because if one of us wasn't available in your corner, then somebody else could come by to help. Cooking technique wise, I made a big change about two years ago, I used to go in and cook things that were working for me in Omaha, Nebraska. I started to realize, even though those were really good ideas and the culinary skills were there, regionally, the United States is so different, even in large districts, and you might experience this in yours as well, in a large district, you could have one school that has a very different group of likes and dislikes, food wise, and then across town, something else is popular going on. What I try to do is work with the directors and the menu planners, and we pick two, three, up to four items, depending on how long the training is that they actually want to put on the menu that next year. So they're committed to making this delicious enchilada, they're going to add it to the menu and we'll do the training class. Everybody learns how to do that item, which already has the commitment to be on the menu. So it's not my item, it's their item. Then what I do as the educator is I'll work with that recipe, but I'll make sure that we're covering safety, sanitation, knife skills, cooking method. I'll bring all of that expertise into the kitchen and incorporate it into the class. It's not like I walk away and you go, Oh, well, those meatballs were delicious, but we're never going to put it on our menu.

Dalia   

What do you recommend people do when they are in districts where they're having trouble getting a clear message from their kids or from their managers about what should be on the menu when it's hard to get a consensus?

Chef Sharon  

 I tell my staff a lot, we only have just over 5000 kids in the school district where I work full time. So it's small by yards compared to some of the places that I've visited. But I tell them all the time, as soon as our customers are predictable, and consistent, they will also be adults, and they'll no longer be our customers. So I think we have to look at our sales reports. We need to be really diligent when we're in the office to track, which entrees are selling.  Are the side dishes that we're serving it with affecting things? If kids don't care for beans, yet, if you haven't gotten them there with loving beans, then sometimes no matter what you serve with the beans sales go down. So really looking at that data in the office and knowing as the menu planner, where do I want this program to go? If it's delicious, and it's well made, and the kids aren't there yet, sometimes we have to do more on the marketing side, the part where we're enthusiastic and get the kids on board to be willing to try it to watch those numbers grow. Sometimes we look at it and we really want it to be successful in the restaurant world. We call it a dog. If it's on your menu, and it's not selling and it's not selling and it's not selling, and you've tried all the marketing that you can do you have to let it go. Because that item is a dog or a non seller.

Dalia  

How long of a trial period do you think is reasonable? Is there a standard in the restaurant world or would that not really apply to us.

Chef Sharon   

So in the restaurant world, we would drop it as soon as we're not making money because it's real dog eat dog, I mean, it's real, it's important that you are making money or you'll go out of business really, really fast. The financial picture in fine dining, is a little bit different how they make those decisions, in school nutrition, putting a menu together, entering it into the nutrition software, all of those steps, it's a huge commitment. So it's hard to put it out there and take it back. I've seen a lot of success with menus where you do things seasonally. You'll try something at back to school time, you'll run it through the fall season, you'll promote it, you'll market it, but you also give yourself permission that is November and December, it really hasn't taken off and you have put it in front of the kids the best way possible multiple times, that when you come back from Christmas break, you'll replace it with something that you think might be more popular. I don't think there's anything wrong with letting some of those items go. I also heard a lot of districts and I started doing this at my previous district and saw success doing what was explained to me as LTO which is limited time only. So when you're trying something instead of making that commitment of putting it on the menu, you just offer it for a limited time, and then if the kids like it, you have to respond by saying, oh, wow, now it's a permanent item.

Dalia 

Okay, that makes a lot of sense. So with something like that, do you just make sure that all of the items that make up that dish are already on your bid, like you're just reworking ingredients you already have instead of maybe committing to ordering a certain quantity, and then it doesn't even work out and you have to pull it and that causing problems between you and the people you buy from?

Chef Sharon   

When I when I do an LTO it's what you explained, it's a rework of things that we already have on hand. Ground beef is a great example, if you have ground beef on your bid, there's unlimited combinations of how that ground beef could be transformed into a different dish. And then the other opportunity is if you tell the people that you're buying from, I'm going to try this at one school, or I'm going to try this at all my middle schools. we're testing this out for our next menu cycle, or we're testing this out for next year's menu. I have never had a salesman that didn't want to sell me more product. So I'm not making a long term commitment by adding it as a regular item. I'm just letting them know what school, how many servings, and I have a conversation with them on you know and plan ahead. Is that special order? Do you have it in stock? What's your price? 

Dalia   

Now, with you having exposure to macrobiotic eating as a child, do you have a kind of plant forward approach to your cooking? Or how do you see that trend becoming more of a thing in school nutrition and being tasty at the same time?

Chef Sharon  

Yeah, so I'm excited that kids are starting to see it other places. I think school nutrition was really one of the first parts of the culinary industry that put plants as the most important part of the meal. When we said that school lunch cannot be qualified as a reimbursed meal without a fruit or vegetable, that was a huge statement. It wasn't the hot dog or the bun or the chicken breast or even the carton of milk. It was a fruit or a vegetable is the starting point. So even if it's as simple as an apple, I think moving towards plant forward is really important. I personally like to menu as much as possible on the lines were black beans, were on our line today. This would be a great example where we had some fajita vegetables leftover,  peppers and onions basically. We season the black beans with peppers and onions and some different spices. Everything in there was vegan, we weren't attempting to make a vegan dish. But if you just naturally have that inclination to keep it just really simple, basic plant forward ingredients when you have that student come through and say, oh, beef tacos. Is there an option for me? Oh, yeah, absolutely. So we try to keep our side dishes, vegan or vegetarian as often as physically possible. Then that way, there's always a lot of variety for kids that want to eat that way, or they're not vegan or vegetarian, but they just really enjoy that philosophy.

Dalia   

Are there ingredients that you find people tend to believe, are essential to a dish, and it's just tradition, but when you test the recipes, people don't even miss it when it's not there. In the south, people tend to always cook their vegetables with some kind of animal fat. You do it so often, it's hard to know, will I even miss it, if it's not there.

Chef Sharon   

Yeah, when I went to culinary school, I was introduced with like brussels sprouts cooked in bacon grease. It's like so delicious. Oh my gosh, something that I would have never had as a child. I actually didn't even like vegetables as a child because they were cooked so poorly. So going to culinary school and learning that you can do things in animal fat was transformative to me; but I don't always need it. If anybody is not sure if they can live without it, I think one thing that really works is to use a nut or a seed, if you don't do nuts in your school program, but you could do a sunflower seed or toasted sesame oil. There's something about that nutty toastiness that reads, similar to how those animal fats are. So if you go straight to olive oil, I think you might feel like you're missing something. You're not it's like a brain game. But with a little bit of that toastiness it's interesting enough to your palate, that you're not as likely to feel like you're missing something. Every once in a while at home, you know, and especially in school nutrition every once in a while, it's really great to throw those animal flavors in to because they're delicious. It's just nice to know that with the right cooking methods and the right flavors, we don't have to, and we're trying to create a palette, and then an entire generation of people that can appreciate food in a way that most Americans weren't raised to do. 

Dalia  

Exactly. Now, with the sides, you mentioned earlier that you guys look at your sales records to kind of see how things are going. At your point of sale, is there a distinction? You identify all of the sides or the meals go as one item and you just identify them based on the center of the plate, or you've really broken them out two sides as well?

Chef Sharon   

No, we just identify them by the center of the plate, but we can use production records to see if we're making five pounds of beans and then we're making seven and a half pounds of beans, and then we're making 10 pounds of beans. So just tracking the production record to see that we keep on needing to make more.

Dalia  

Okay, that makes sense. Got it.

Chef Sharon  

And the beans we all have to serve. So the beans are one of those things that if it's a dog, you have to transform it into a different theme dish, but we can never just drop them. We just have to get better at the way that we prepare them and better at the way that we get the kids to accept them. 

Dalia  

Are you doing a lot of scratch cooking in your districts? Since it sounds like you guys are a little bit smaller?

Chef Sharon   

Yeah, we are. We are starting to. I'm new in that position. I started as the director November 1. As most people are aware, the procurement process happened well before I was hired. I'm working right now with a lot of products that the previous director did through her procurement process, and doing a lot of you know, oh, yeah, it's a chicken patty on a bun, but we can also turn it into chicken parmesan or a chicken cordon bleu sandwich. We can add little, I'll say "chefy" touches here or there without modifying what those bid agreements were. Also right now I'm doing the bid process for August 2019. That's really been fun for me to be able to make that shopping list for myself, and to imagine what the menu can be. I don't believe in throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I will not be coming back in August and running a full scratch menu. I think that would be a shock to the system for everybody involved. We can do a baby steps approach where we find something that works really well we add it to the menu, we learn it, we love it, we get the kids into it, and then we add another thing to the menu. It'll be a couple of year process.

Dalia   

Congratulations on the new position. What was your title before?

Chef Sharon  

My job in a district before this one, I had two titles, but it was at the same place. I was hired as the culinary manager for the district, but shortly after I was given the title Executive Chef. It depended on if you were looking at my email, or my business card, or my chef coat. It was a little bit tricky, but Culinary Manager Executive Chef. I reported to the director, I managed the high school manager, the a la carte smart snack program, the contract meals program. We also did a lot of production cooking for our elementary and middle schools. If we made something from scratch, we would do a large batch in my kitchen, and then satellite it out. Some of it was homemade meatballs, we would make the meatball mix, send the mix to the kitchens and they would make the balls and bake them on site. We could make sure that the meatballs were all mixed very consistently.

Dalia   

It's always interesting to me to see how differently people approach running a district depending on what their background is in. The chefs make me the most jealous with their menus and their super tight inventory. How do you approach building a cycle menu that basically reduces waste in a way that probably other people struggle with? 

Chef Sharon  

I am developing a six week rotation for next year for elementary and the high school is, well, I'm going to take that back. I started with the high school menu. I like to start with high school menu. It's probably partially because I started at a high school. So 9th grade through 12th grade is has been my jam for we're creeping up past nine years at this point, but I'm not nearly to 10.  I started at at 9th through 12th grade, I really love developing their programs, you can get into a lot of sophisticated flavors. I developed that first. Then I looked at it and said to myself, what parts of it do I need to lose to make sure that it works for a middle school kitchen and my sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. Then I looked at that scaled back middle school version, and I pulled off of that made a six week rotation for elementary. So if I did a build your own taco bar, at the high school, I might have multiple kinds of shells and bases, a couple different kinds of meat or protein options, loads of toppings, pineapple salsa, mango salsa, pico de gallo, you know, lots of variety. Then at the middle school, we might only have one meat at a time, but give them a choice of crunchy or soft. Then on the elementary manager or elementary menu, it would just be you know, beef soft taco. So we kind of do those baby steps back. But with the six week rotation. I love that idea, because when parents are looking at August to September to October to November, there is not a month that chicken nuggets are the first Monday of every month, or you know, cheese pizza is the last Friday of every month, because you're rotating through six weeks, and we don't have a month that has six weeks so it offers a little bit more variety.

Dalia  

Do you have repetition within those six weeks, or they're all unique?

Chef Sharon  

There is a little bit of repetition. Friday has always been pizza day at Gretna. We just have different versions of that fun pizza flavor on Friday it could be cheese pizza, and then pepperoni pizza and then max sticks and then you know just kind of all of those pizza like things. On Monday, traditionally, that's been when all the deliveries come in. We all know how hard Mondays are. Monday is the day where it's a heat and serve menu. So if everything falls apart, and the trucks late, and you know, all of those Monday real life situations, you have those items on hand already. So it could be a whole grain corn dog, or a whole grain chicken nugget or chicken and waffles might be a fun way to do your chicken tenders, things like that. We have the comfort level that yes, it's going to feel like a Monday and be a Monday. But my menu is very straightforward as far as preparation. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday is where we get to have all of our fun.

Dalia 

What day do you get your produce are you able to get it multiple times during the week?

Chef Sharon   

We're starting to get big enough that we will probably middle school and high school will get two produce deliveries next year, but right now we get one and it's on Tuesday. It makes Monday produce a little bit of a struggle. But certain things like baby carrots, there's certain things that really function pretty well for us getting it on a Tuesday and having to use it the whole weekend into Monday, apples clementines. There's certain things that will hold well. 

Dalia

When you mentioned the onions and peppers, I'm more of a home cook than a professional kitchen person. How do you do those? Do you roast those in a shallow pan since you can't, you know, saute them over an open flame. Well, I'm assuming you guys don't have that option. 

Chef Sharon   

Well we don't have an open flame some kitchens do, but also there's a couple of really great products that some of the vegetable companies have done where there are fire roasted vegetables. So they're roasting them over an open flame and then they're selling them to school kitchens frozen. That'll give you a little bit of that ability to take staff that is right now just doing heat and serve. Because with the fire roasted vegetables, it's still heat and serve but it's an interesting ingredient and an interesting flavor. If you're doing them from scratch in the kitchen, you can roast peppers and onions in the oven. You rub oil all over them and like a really high high temperature and you're looking for the outside of the skin to blister, and then you can throw them in a bowl with saran wrap over top to let all of that steam soften the sides of the peppers. Or you can throw them in a giant brown paper bag and roll the sides down. It just depends on how many peppers and onions you're doing. You peel the skins off, chop them up, try not to get any seeds in there and that would be the oven equivalent of your fire roasted.

Dalia  

Okay, this is so much excellent information. Would you say your knowledge base, a lot of it came from your formal studies? Or is a lot of this acquired over a lifetime? Can we expect other people finishing culinary school to kind of have a similar knowledge base or not really.

Chef Sharon 

I think anybody coming out of a good culinary program will have the cooking skills down. I think more important than the culinary skills to be successful in school nutrition, you really have to have a love and desire to work with the kids. Some people will come out of culinary school with that some people will need 15 years after culinary school like me. I think the most successful people in school nutrition, whether you're a great cook or not a great cook, the valuable skill is that you want to be there for the kids, that your heart is in it. As far as graduates, looking at school nutrition as a career path, I think that's a conversation that's starting to happen. There's a couple of people that are just very vocal and about being part of school nutrition, and also identifying as a chef. That information is starting to get out there to the culinary schools. Instead of just saying, oh, I have to go to a fancy restaurant, or I could work in health care, people are starting to think about I can work in school nutrition and that's cool.

Dalia  

That's excellent. Thank you so much for coming on. What is something about school nutrition that you wish more people knew, like something that you're really proud of that we've done as an industry, and the word doesn't seem to be out?

Chef Sharon 

One of the things that I think if you're in school nutrition, you know this, even if you've never vocalized it, but the cafeteria is probably the largest classroom, in every school building, and when we allow ourselves to think that we're not only an extension of education by fueling all of the other learning, but we're literally part of the education. These kids come to us at five years old and we have the ability to introduce them to taste, textures, flavors, cultures, experiences, all through our menus, all the way up to 12th grade.  We have such a strong influence on the way that they're going to live the rest of their lives. I just love considering that I'm one of the teachers, my staff is one of the teachers and to let kids know, it's like, oh, why would you serve that that's weird or gross or different? Because we're educating you, because we're teaching you something you didn't go into third grade math, knowing how to do multiplication, and it was weird and was scary and it was different. And now look at you as an eighth grader doing pre-algebra. So our food can develop our students that same way.

Dalia 

That is awesome. Thank you so much. I honestly have taken so many notes. Where can people find you online so they can continue to benefit from your limitless knowledge, honestly, of school nutrition.

Chef Sharon  

Thank you, Dalia. My website is www.evolutionofthelunchlady.com and I'm on Facebook as Sharon Schaefer Evolution of the Lunch Lady,  Instagram @evolutionofthelunchlady and on Twitter because that's too long for Twitter @chefsharonsns

Dalia 

Got it and where do you hang out the most?

Chef Sharon 

I am a Facebook baby I'm a Gen Xer, I just it's so easy for me to get on Facebook and connect with people have to remember to do the other ones or my younger siblings will tell me you haven't been on Instagram lately, and it's like, oh, yeah, that one I need to do that more. 

Dalia

So you are a Gen Xer are you guys all Gen Xers or its Gen Xers and millennials?

Chef Sharon  

We my family rages ranges from Gen Xers to millennials, there's six of us. So there's there's a lot of years between us. 

Dalia 

Thats awesome, though. I'm sure it helps to have kinda tech support, they're probably not awesome tech support anymore but now you've got kids for that. 

Chef Sharon 

Oh, I have a 13 year old that can fix my computer and make it do anything. It's wonderful.

Dalia 

That is lucky. Thanks again.

Chef Sharon  

Absolutely, absolutely. Thanks for inviting me.