By Charlotte Foote
Director of Dining Services Keith Jones and the rest of the kitchen staff have cooked up new ideas for school dining this academic year, recently introducing new food options to the cafeteria and planning more build-your-own style meals for the coming months.
In November, the kitchen staff prepared ceviche, pizza bombs, mushi pork, and breakfast for lunch, as well as a fair-themed meal that included fried dough and baked cinnamon apples, which Chef Jones called a crowd favorite.
“I thought it would be fun to have those summer foods one more time before we got into the cold winter months,” Chef Jones explained.
The chef said that the creation of these specialties was prompted by his simple desire to “excite” people with lunch offerings, adding that although a variety of choices exists already, he thought it was important to “break the routine and shake things up.”
“The last thing I want is for the community to get bored with the food,” Chef Jones said. “The concept of menu development is ongoing for me.”
Chef Jones said he draws inspiration for new meals from a variety of cookbooks, cooking magazines, cooking shows, off-campus food exhibitions, and restaurants that he visits in his free time.
“When I go out and find something I like,” he reported, “my first thought is always, ‘I wonder if I can bring this to work.’”
To that end, Chef Jones said he often asks other chefs for the recipes of meals he enjoys so that he can jot them down in his notebook. The challenge then becomes adapting what can be “elaborate” meals for production on a large scale that will feed hundreds of students and faculty.
He added that growing up in a “cooking family” meant always feeling inspired by the art of cuisine. At age 9, he began joining his mother and grandmother in the kitchen, occasionally recreating recipes seen on cooking channels.
“Food is a big part of building community, and it’s very close to home for me,” he explained.
Feedback to the chef’s new recipes among student and faculty has been positive.
“Chef Jones has been blowing me away every day,” Angela Duong ’17 said. “Every bite I take, I want more.”
Zoe Ting ’18 said she enjoyed the “creative take” Chef Jones and the kitchen staff have had on cafeteria fare, adding that breakfast for lunch has so far been her favorite.
Chef Jones cited Assistant to the Upper School Director Karen Wyon as one of his biggest supporters, who provides new cookbooks and ideas on a regular basis.
“The two of us have a really good time sharing recipes,” Ms. Wyon said. “Whenever I find a cookbook that I really like, I make sure to swap it with him.”
Many of the new vegetable salads seen in the cafeteria in recent months have come from such shared recipes.
Chef Jones said the ability to improve the days of students and faculty has made the extra work preparing specials fun.
This trimester, the kitchen will debut build-your-own meals, a concept that Chef Jones tested with soup in the first semester.
“There are new surprises in the works,” the chef reported, “and they won’t disappoint.”