BHS School Lunch Undergoing a “Makeover”

By Faythe Ventresca

Branford High School’s cafeteria is currently undergoing a food “makeover” thanks to the head chef Julio Montes. Julio Montes is the head chef at BHS and is an executive district chef for Chartwells Inc., which operates the food service in Branford Public Schools. He is incorporating new vegetables, visual appearances, menus, recipes and diversity in food selection.

Montes’s main focus is the food – “It’s all about the food,” he says – and he is driving for participation from the students and is driving for customers.

Photo Credit: Kathryn Cooke
Head Chef Julio Montes is hoping to get more students to buy lunch by expanding and improving the menu. Photo Credit: Kathryn Cooke

Federal guidelines regulate ‘health’ of school lunches

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary,Tom Vilsack states, “Every time our kids eat a piece of fruit or a vegetable, they are learning healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime.”

At BHS, Montes is incorporating vegetables by trying new unique and trending recipes. An example of a new vegetable is kale; and it will be baked into kale chips. The head chef has also done a lot of training with the cooks. He is “changing the mentality” of the cooks while making sure the staff is comfortable. This is allowing the food that is served to be speedy, presentable, and visually appealing.

One of the major changes is instructed by USDA. All the food will be 100% whole grain. This includes pasta,bread,muffins and etc. This issue was brought up in previous years and students were unsatisfied with the taste of the food.

Students still not always sold on school lunches

A senior explained that he eats the school lunch, but he hasn’t noticed any changes in the taste of the food. “The food is okay, but it still isn’t good. I don’t enjoy eating it.” Half of the students interviewed, voted that the lunches have not gotten better, while three agreed it “kind of” has and one said it has.

Recently, the Digital Journalism class tasted a variety of foods and critiqued it. A majority of the students said they enjoyed the food for the price and circumstances. Flavor was one of the characteristics that was talked about most. “The chicken was spicy, but not really spicy which was fine with me, because it gave the chicken more flavor to it which I liked,” says a freshman in the class.

To see the reviews of the school food, click here.

Some of the new menu items at BHS include pulled pork, cole slaw and corn. Here is a sample tray prepared by Chef Julio Montes. Photo credit: BHS Buzz.
Some of the new menu items at BHS include pulled pork, cole slaw and corn. Here is a sample tray prepared by Chef Julio Montes. Photo credit: BHS Buzz.

More changes on the way

By January, the breakfast variety is going to expand. Students will have more choices, such as breakfast omelets, and breakfast pizza along with what they currently sell. The lunch menus will also have more variety. A panini press will be installed in which students can order and press their own sandwiches. More salad choices along with different spreads (ex. hummus) are also new additions.

Another improvement Montes is making is the amount of diverse foods that are being served at lunch. Every 60 days, the cafeteria is participating in “Eat Around the World”, which consists of a change of menu based on a different country. Montes says he “wants to add more diversity” to the food selections. Branford High School has a wide range of diversity and he wants to express it through food.

Though these changes are just a “make over”, they are improvements that Montes is passionate about and he is excited to share with the students and staff at Branford High.

What do you think of the school lunches at BHS? Let us know in the comments or @BranfordBuzz on Twitter.