I was walking through my local Kroger shopping for the school, and I ran into a student’s parent. This happens frequently as a chef because I am at a grocery store every day. She wanted to know what to feed her picky eater. I often hear parents tell me that their children used to be picky eaters but now they are not. At LeafSpring, I feed the kids a lot of different types of food. Growing up in Japan, vegetables and foods most Americans might find unusual, are everyday foods for me. I love giving the kids the experiences I have had all over the world. I mix in recipes I would even prepare at the high-end restaurants.
Each week during the summer, LeafSpring has a theme. For Hawaiian Week, I made “Luau” Pork, from scratch, wrapped in banana leaves. It had to start cooking and smoking the day before to get the soft pull apart texture along with that wonderful scent and sweetness from the banana leaves. Not only do we as adults like our BBQ that way, but the kids want the softer textures too. The aroma permeated the entire school. The kids just gobbled it up. These are kids that I am told often won’t eat meat at home. There’s nothing like hearing parents ask if they can come in and eat too.
QUICK TIP – Salt a 7-9lb pork shoulder liberally with a couple dashes of liquid smoke, just to save time and mess, then wrap in banana leaves from your local Asian grocery store and cook partially covered at 200°F for 10-12 hours.
We had a routine state inspection this past week and the state representative told me that no other school nearby is making food from scratch for the kids like we do. I even alter the menu to coincide with the curriculum so apples go with Johnny Appleseed and so forth. She also asked me to make a cookbook for the parents. She asked what I had made that day – “Swamp Chili” (White Chicken Chili). I showed her the zucchini and jalapeños in the chili, that are grown in the school garden, and how I chopped them up to look like little alligators in the swamp to make eating vegetables more fun. The kids were excited to eat the little gators.
QUICK TIP – Blend fresh vegetables into soups, sauces, stews, for kids who are afraid of textures. Carrots, peppers, zucchini and spinach are blended into my chili and spaghetti.
The children and their parents win with scratch-made foods. Many of the students come here because of certain minor dietary restrictions that most schools find too much of a hassle to make it possible to enroll those students. Packaged frozen foods often contain gluten, peanut oil, dairy and other allergens. We are peanut free. Some students are diabetic and some are vegetarian. We always have real food options.
Make sure you visit our wellness center to chat with the nurses too. Even when your children are ill, we can take care of them so you can go to work knowing they will be well cared for. If you want your children to eat better, healthier, more delicious food, please come take a tour through LeafSpring. Come see me outside of a lunch rush to see our menus, farm-to-table foods and our alternative options for those with dietary concerns. You can even check out what I am making on Instagram by searching for #myschooleatsbetterthanyou and #ChefSeiji