Greg Christian sought buy-in from students as part of his overall plan to bring sustainable foodservice to Nardin Academy.

With the assessment complete and the strategy in place, Nardin Academy had the tools to get started. The school continued to evaluate how its newfound sustainability strategy would fit into the current foodservice provider's systems. With so much enthusiasm uncovered in the visioning session, the school also began exploring what options would be available if it managed the program internally. There were two tracks developing for implementing the strategy, but what the school still didn't know was if the student body would really start eating better food, follow waste protocol, and be happy about the new program.

Nardin Kitchen Prepping for TastingPrepping for a tasting menu in Nardin Academy's kitchenLooking across the nation at school cafeterias, students are used to eating burgers, pizza, fries, and cookies the size of their hands. Nardin was hesitant to jump into the food business or request change from the foodservice provider without being sure it was what the students wanted.

So, on a trip to Buffalo, I brought a couple of team members and conducted a series of tastings for Nardin students. We made three dishes per day, four days in a row, for 800 kids. There were some standard "kid-friendly" foods like chicken fingers (cut from fresh breasts, marinated in buttermilk, and hand breaded), but we also made more unique foods like lentils with coconut milk, Thai curry, and kale. We surveyed each student on every dish and completely blew out of the water the idea "kids won't eat that."

Nardin witnessed first-hand that healthier, nutritious options were embraced by its students. With this confidence, we tackled a potential menu. The idea was to create a three-week example of what a menu could look like. Throughout this process we had to consider equipment restrictions and needs. This is something the school had been discussing with the foodservice provider even before Beyond Green was brought into the picture (remember they were considering a redesign).

However, I always suggest creating a menu before purchasing any foodservice equipment. In our industry I see this happen time and time again, investing in a brand new shiny kitchen before determining exactly how the culinary staff will use it. Keeping foodservice equipment needs in mind, we created a potential menu with input from key students who were voluntarily involved in the project from the start. We did a more intimate tasting with all different age groups and varying backgrounds to test different flavor profiles. From there the school had a clear idea of what the students wanted, what they should start with, and what they could add down the road. This gave Nardin a more palpable start on its vision.

With the menu created, the school then took a closer look at the kitchen design and equipment. For that I brought on a partner, Melanie Smythe of Candacity.

For all posts on Greg's work at Nardin Academy click here