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the smile behind our lunch line

3 Jan
2013-11-29_19-35-03 Happy New Year everyone! We hope you had a wonderful break, are feeling recharged, and are staying safe in the snow. We love featuring our Food Service Staff on our blog. They are so vital to the success of our programs. They are the face, the smile, the nurturing voice behind our lunch lines, helping our students make decisions, encouraging them to try new foods, and making lunch fun for our communities. Which is why we are featuring Vernan Douglas who is our Food Service Utility Attendant at one of our schools where we serve lunch. His enthusiasm for his role within Butter Beans, and love for supporting our students at lunch time inspired us to interview him.

What brought you to Butter Beans? A very good friend of mine was working for the company for over a year at the time. She kept speaking about how exciting and different it was, so I insisted on giving it a shot.

What are some of your highlights from your time working with the students? 

There is a student that always asks me if certain foods are Kosher. I always understood the basics about Kosher foods, but not all of the intricacies. He came up to me recently and asked me to sit down with him at lunch, and he explained to me all about what Kosher means. Our conversation inspired me to read more about it, and now I am much more knowledgeable. I was impressed with his awareness of his dietary restrictions.

Have you noticed a change in the food habits of the students?  Many of our students did not eat vegetables at the start of the school year. Though many of them are vegetarians, they would sometimes prefer to eat nothing over eating vegetables. When some students started choosing vegetables, we would congratulate them on how awesome their plates looked, and slowly their peers wanted some recognition too! Not only are they now consuming more vegetables, but they get so excited when they see the daily veggies that we offer. It feels good to see them walk off with their colorful plates!

What motivates you to do your best each day?

I enjoy feeding people good food, I enjoy smiles, and I am big on great health. The children that I serve on a daily basis are our future; if I can serve them a great meal and they come back and thank me, or tell me how great the food was, that’s enough motivation for me to do what I do everyday without a doubt. What do you like the most about your job? No matter what may be going on in my life, the students are always there for me, genuinely happy, and giving me hugs and high fives…that feeling there is priceless.

What is your favorite Butter Beans lunch to eat? The shepherd’s pie is AMAZING. That is by far my favorite lunch yet. I also enjoy our cheesy broccoli soup, I’ve never had anything like it!

kid tested cranberry chutney

25 Nov

IMG_0175Our Thanksgiving cooking class recipe revolved around seasonal fruit like cranberries, apples and pears.

They loved it!

We created a vibrant and fall colored quinoa salad, and to go alongside it, we simmered down a delicious cranberry chutney. A perfect delight for the senses!

Here’s to celebrating the fall harvest, spending time with family and friends, savoring good food, making memories, and giving back to those who need it the most.

Prep Time: 5 minutes Total Time: ~60 minutes


  • 1 c. cranberries
  • 2 c. apples, peeled and chopped
  • 1 c. orange juice
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 1 t. ginger
  • 4 T sugar


Add all of the ingredients into a pan and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 1 hour, or until all ingredients are soft and the liquid has reduced.

Happy Thanksgiving and Hanukkah!

Our corporate chef

6 Nov

Screen Shot 2013-11-01 at 11.19.09 AMDid you know that our kitchen team cooks over 2,200 meals per day?

All of those meals take someone who oversees and directs the entire process, with acute attention to detail and the ability to multitask, problem solve, and manage a team.

We wanted to provide you with a glimpse of what it’s like inside our commissary kitchen, so we interviewed our Corporate Chef, Allen Stickell to learn more.

We hope you enjoy our conversation!

BB: What inspired you to become a chef?

Allen: “I became a Chef because I obviously had a natural love of food and respect for ingredients, but I really like that it gives me instant feedback. I love that on day to day basis I know if my work and projects are good or bad.”

BB: Where did you learn how to become a chef?

Allen: “I did a formal apprenticeship through the American Culinary Federation. I not only went to culinary school, but I also had to complete 6,000 hours under a Certified Chef. I also traveled and worked in some of the best kitchens in the country like Charlie Trotter’s restaurant in Chicago under Chef and owner Charlie Trotter, and Citronelle in Washington D.C. under Chef Michel Richard.”

chicken-dumplings-rs-1141202-lBB: Can you provide us with a glimpse of how our commissary kitchen runs?

Allen: “In our commissary kitchen we have 7 full time staff members, each with different skills but all equally important. Son Pham is our Sous Chef, who oversees the kitchen in my absence, he is the second in command. One of the newest member to our team is Allison Chung who is our Pastry Chef. She bakes our desserts, muffins and pizza dough, along with anything else that requires her unique skill set. Abbi is our Lead Cook and makes all the entrees, while Richard prepares all our vegetables and composed salads, G-Berry prepares our crudités and dips, and Miguel prepares all of our cold bar items. Last but not least, Gilberto is our dishwasher who cleans up the whole operation.”

BB: Why do you like working for Butter Beans? 

Allen: “I love what Butter Beans stands for. I think it is important to have a sense of where your food is coming from. I also think it is extremely important to make healthy choices when planning meals, and I feel like we are helping young people with that education. We are changing lives!”

BB: What is your favorite Butter Beans lunch to eat, and what is your favorite Butter Beans lunch to create?

Allen: “I love to eat our chicken and dumplings, and I love to create soups, along with creating new and healthy ways to cook classics that kids love.”

BB: What motivates you to do your best everyday?

Allen: “What motivates me is that I actually go to work feeling that I’m making a difference in the world around me. It makes me proud.”

Thanks Allen for all of your hard work and dedication, and for creating delicious dishes for our students!

Photo courtesy of

Welcome back to school!

4 Sep

6085132797_166fcfe782A big welcome back goes out to all of our students, teachers, faculty and administrators!

What a summer it’s been!

We had a very successful Food + Garden Summer Camp, and also a great summer for serving lunches to other camps in our area.

We have taken on 2 new schools, that we are really excited about, and many more new schools have sign up for our after-school cooking program.

We wish you all a successful, healthy, exploratory, fun, challenging, meaningful, and exciting school year ahead!

Photo courtesy of Phil Roeder

reading list

1 Mar

5854949486_c609ecd2eeThe food revolution of our time has been well underway, and with the proliferation of food information many insightful books have bloomed.

We are here to share with you some of our staff favorites, hoping that our list may inspire a food revolution in you, or in your community.

What food related books have inspired you?
Photo courtesy of whitneyinchicago