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Bemidji Area Schools: New school food ideas

Leaning forward to get a closer look at how chef Howard Smith, right, prepares a new food item for school lunches is Lisa Wasnuk, food service employee at Bemidji Middle School. Head cooks from Bemidji Area Schools attended an afternoon session with Smith, a culinary consultant with Appert's Foodservice. Submitted photo

School lunches are an important part of students' academic experience, says Marleen Webb, Bemidji Area Schools' food service coordinator.

On March 10, head cooks from Bemidji High School, Bemidji Middle School and Bemidji elementary schools received specialized training from chef Howard Smith, a culinary consultant from Appert's Foodservice.

Bemidji Schools is in its second year of a two-year contract with Appert's Foodservice.

"Our purpose is to promote nutritious eating," Webb said. "Yet, we can always do things better."

Smith spent the afternoon training the cooks on developing new menu ideas and how to run an efficient school kitchen. Bemidji Schools' food service is looking to add more fruits and vegetables to its meals and incorporating more made-from-scratch cooking, Webb said.

"They were looking for new ideas, especially low-sodium and low-fat," Smith said in a telephone interview. "I shared with them some different ideas. We made low-fat alfredo and low-sodium soup. They were also interested in humus."

Smith has worked in the restaurant business for over 25 years. He has worked as prep cook, sauté cook, sous chef and executive chef. Smith served as executive chef at the Black Bear Lodge and Saloon in Baxter. He is currently executive chef at the Lost Lake Lodge in Nisswa, Minn., where he works from May to September.

"I remember when I was in high school we were just served one meal," Smith said. "Nowadays, the choices and selections are phenomenal. I think school lunches play a high role in school."

As a consultant with Appert's Foodservice, Smith said he would be available to the cooks for additional help or assistance at any time.

"The feedback (from the school cooks) was very positive," Webb said. "It did not seem to involve as much preparation as they had anticipated. We hope to have him back next fall."