Bringing Whole Grains to High School

Ryan ConklinRyan Conklin is a Chef Manager for Culinary & Nutritional Services at Rex. His mission is to bring healthy, gourmet cuisine to the Rex community & shed the label of “hospital food.”

I had a unique opportunity this past week that I wanted to share with you. The Rex Healthcare Chefs were invited back to high school. It had been over fifteen years since I’ve strolled through any high school hallways, so as I was on the way there, candid memories of my days at Warwick Valley High School started to kick in. But this was special, we were coming via invite to help educate students about whole grains, which was a very unique chance for a hospital chefs to touch base with the community.

After some minor planning, Jim and myself packed up the truck with some wheatberries, farro, and quinoa….. We were going back to high school!

With a special invite from Chef Ryan McGuire- Chef Trainer for the Chapel Hill- Carrboro City Schools, we planned to do a simple cooking demonstration and tasting of our wheatberry chili right smack the middle of lunchtime of the cafe at East Chapel Hill High School.

This was our set-up, as we planned for about 100 small tastings. But as always, we brought more just to be on the safe side. I’m glad we did, because at roughly 12:08 pm, the bell rang, or as Jim said “the Damn broke loose”, and the students came pouring in. I did a brief demo on how to cook the chili, but that wasn’t too important to them. What they really wanted – to taste the goods.

And tasting they did. At one point, Chef McGuire was pumping out chili faster than he had plated entrees in some NYC’s finest restaurants. The verdict, they loved it, and plenty came back for more. It was great to witness all of these young faces being turned on to something that they’ve never tried before, and actually enjoy it. As the compliments kept pouring in, the chili kept pouring out- right until the last cup. About 200 tastings in all.

What a great day!