The Cook’s Warehouse Continues to Grow
Cafeteria workers get some extra credit at The Cook’s Warehouse.
The fifth Farm-to-School “cooking workshop” session to help
cafeteria workers and school children’s meals at the City Schools
of Decatur was hosted by Mary Moore, founder and CEO of The
Cook’s Warehouse this past month.
Instead of a class, a meeting of the principals was an “Assess –
Adjust – Plan” session for the program for the 3,000 children in the
A roundtable discussion included Moore; Matthew Rao, who proposed the kitchen staff workshops; Jennifer Weissman, a Decatur
parent now working with the Decatur school nutrition director;
Seth Freedman, one of the two chefs donating his expertise and
time; Allison Goodman, director of school nutrition for the City
Schools of Decatur; Cathy Chapman, bookkeeper for the School
Nutrition program; and Jim Brams, pro bono public relations
The exchange of information yielded these trends and suggestions
for the future:
1. Purchased healthy lunches have increased dramatically in all
schools since the Farm-to-School program began. Increases are
most significant at the high school where the “a la carte” line
selling fast food was eliminated.
2. The cafeteria cooks need more training to function like a commercial kitchen, i.e. prep stations for vegetables needed for all
dishes cooked that day, a sauces and stocks station, etc. The
discussion helped the leadership group decide that the next
hands-on class for the cafeteria staff will be divided by skill, and
will be held in three of The Cook’s Warehouse kitchens rather
than the entire staff as one group in one kitchen.
3. Ideas for tasking and production were discussed to help the
staff think about prepping food for a week at a time rather than
daily to help production efficiency. Another move discussed was
the possible rotation of staff among prep stations so all workers
develop skills in multiple areas, helping cover absent team
members and increasing employee satisfaction.
4. Another site visit was planned to “follow the food” from one of
the two base kitchens to one of the five other kitchens to assess
processes and procedures, including how each school orders its
lunch needs by 9 a.m. and how the
base kitchens fulfill those orders.
The visit is planned to observe
and offer suggestions for greater
5. The kitchen staff has learned to
avoid the terms “healthy” and
“vegetarian,” which lowered
acceptance of new items. For
example, students were hesitant
to try “vegetarian beans” but they
love the same beans when labeled
“spicy beans.” Future workshops
will include tips on food styling
and presentation, as well as “
marketing” ideas for new dishes.
6. The Farm-to-School program
influenced the kitchen design and
layout at the new Fifth Avenue
school, a fourth and fifth grade
school opening this fall. The kitchen at this new site will be a full
kitchen: staff will prepare and cook
all food for its students on-site.
7. During a recent state audit visit,
auditors were amazed at the
limited use of canned vegetables
in the City Schools of Decatur.
Fresh vegetables have been
substituted for many of the
canned items previously used.
8. Expenses for fresh produce have
increased approximately 33 percent
this year. Expenses for frozen and
canned items have decreased
somewhat, but the overall increased
expenses were manageable because
of help from the school board in
covering some of the kitchen staff
9. The Oakhurst Community Garden
Project continues to provide hands-on gardening education on-site at
the schools. This spring, all schools