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What's for Lunch?

 Chef Brian prepares lunch at LHHS
Chef Brian prepares lunch at LHHS

School cafeterias have had a bad reputation for decades, and arguably for good reason: Not just anyone can ruin the entire concept of pizza.

Twenty years ago this abomination was a creature of flat bread, drizzled with “alleged” tomato sauce, covered in mozzarella — In rectangular slices — left for hours beneath a heating lamp before being heaped upon the next hapless student. According to corporate chef Brian Renz, that was the school lunch of the past. The future is now.

Lake Havasu High School cafeteria workers served pizza — real pizza — to students Tuesday afternoon as Renz oversaw the preparation of various menu items. At 58, Renz spent decades preparing food in the restaurant, hotel and hospitality industries.

Renz has served as a chef for Taher, Inc – a contract food service management company that prepares school lunches throughout the country. Renz’s duties require him to travel to cities throughout the U.S., including Havasu, to oversee food preparation at school campuses.

This week he joined the school district’s newest Executive Chef and Food Service Director, Christopher Gallaga, in preparing meals Monday and Tuesday at Thunderbolt Middle School, Starline Elementary School and LHHS.

“I’ve worked it all except for cruise ships,” Renz said. “A large part of my job now is to oversee lunch service in Lake Havasu City and check to make sure the school is offering new and exciting meals for kids.”

Cheap, processed, high-calorie options are a thing of the past. The majority of meals in the Lake Havasu Unified School District are made with fresh ingredients, from scratch, according to Renz.

“The Obama Administration changed things for everybody with the ‘Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act’,” Renz said. “A lot of pre-packaged meals schools used to use exceeded the guidelines. It entices us to make more things from scratch, and we like doing so.”

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 redefined USDA standards for the National School Lunch Program, requiring reductions to calories, sodium and fat to students’ meals.

Renz attended “A Taste of Havasu,” an annual food festival at SARA Park, where he offered Havasu residents a chance to taste modern school cuisine Tuesday evening.

“Anytime I have an opportunity to showcase our schools’ food service, we’re eager to do it,” Renz said. “We want to get rid of the ‘pre-made chicken nugget’ feeling people still have toward school food.”

Renz is scheduled to serve breakfast at Havasupai Elementary School this morning, and at Nautilus Elementary School Thursday. On Thursday afternoon, he is expected to cook a special zucchini spaghetti recipe for LHHS students. On Friday, Renz is scheduled to prepare breakfast at Smoketree Elementary.

 


by Brandon Messick, Today's News-Herald
Oct 23, 2018

 


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