Briggs School fourth-grader Jackson Tarrance got to have one of his favorite meals Friday at lunch. Better yet, he got to make the pizza himself.
Ten students, grades 1-5, were selected to participate in Briggs’ “Junior Chef” program. Officials from Gourmet Solutions were on hand to teach the children about proper nutrition and how to prepare their own food from scratch.
Gourmet Solutions provides food services for Briggs, and Chef Justin Mills, vice president of operations, enjoys getting out in the field and working one-on-one with the kids.
“Today, we’ll teach them how to make their own little pepperoni pizzas, along with how to build a plate using the new USDA food guidelines,” said Mills. “We’ve partnered with Briggs to raise food service standards.”
Mills was accompanied by Mike Welch, owner of Gourmet Solutions, and Tori Morehead, director of nutrition for the company.
“I think it’s important, especially at a young age, to teach the importance of nutrition,” said Welch. “We use whole grain crust, mozzarella cheese and pepperoni.”
The tables were line with bright red placemats, red and white satin and fresh-cut fruits, including apples, oranges, cantaloupe and watermelon.
“It’s all about appeal,” said Welch. “We dress things up, because everyone eats with their eyes. We’re scratch cooking, and we think it’s important we bring that to the schools.”
Students were selected to participate as a reward for perfect attendance.
Morehead had a couple of nutrition activities planned, such as teaching kids how to build a healthy plate using photos of a variety of items from food groups: dairy, grains, vegetables, fruits and proteins. Students selected items and attached them to a model food plate, designing a meal they’d like to eat.
“It’s a good way to teach children, and they take that information home and share it with their families,” said Morehead.
Children washed their hands, then returned to the cafeteria to make their pizzas.
Fifth-grader Josie Moffitt donned her toque – a chef’s hat – along with an apron and gloves.
“I hope to have fun and learn how to make stuff,” said Josie.
Jackson was excited to see the ingredients for the pizza.
“Does it matter if we use the whole thing of cheese on our pizza?” he asked.
When he learned he could, his eyes lit up and he said, “Sweet!”
Students were impressed by the fresh-cut fruit, and let Mills and Morehead know it looked delicious.
Mills taught the students to “dock,” or aerate, their raw pizza crusts to prevent crust bubbles when cooking. He complimented the students as they worked, encouraging a couple to become chefs.
“I watch the cooking shows,” said Jackson. “I’m not going to be a chef; I just watch them because they make me hungry.”
After the pizzas were ready for the oven, Mills and Welch collected them for baking, while Morehead quizzed the kids about food groups.
All the children could identify a number of fruits, vegetables and dairy, but proteins and grains were a little more complicated. Several of the kids could identify avocados and shrimp, which impressed Morehead.
Once the pizzas arrived, Mills told the kids their creations looked so good he might have to have a bit from each one.
“Back off,” said Jackson, with a grin.
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To find out more about Gourmet Solutions, visit www.gourmetsolutions.org.