A school cafeteria lunch? Really? The school cafeterias I’ve visited are noisy affairs with uncomfortable seating and unappetizing food – unless you’re a sucker for cold pizza, tater tots and oceans of ketchup.
Not so at The Lexington School.
Earlier this year when the school hired chef Ryan Laudenschlager (Chef Ryan as he’s called), the first thing he did was tear out the fryers.
Healthy, nutritious, interesting food has become the order of the day in the cafeteria where students, faculty and administrators eat in a relaxed, comfortable family meal setting.
On my visit last month, the entrée was chicken and vegetarian alfredo (gluten free pasta available) with side dishes of steamed broccoli and sauteed yellow squash (excellent!).
At the sandwich bar, fresh roasted turkey breast meat was available. Everything in Chef Ryan’s kitchen is “always fresh, always local and always seasoned to perfection,” according to Marijo Foster, the Head of the Lower School who has worked at TLS for 35 years.
She and everyone else are delighted with Chef Ryan’s changes.
“We don’t open cans in the kitchen,” he said. “Everything is made from scratch. Every bean starts out dry.
“Our food is nutritious because I can control the salt, the sulfates and fat in each dish.”
I can attest to the quality. I’m on a health kick – to commemorate Lexington Family Magazine’s 15th anniversary, I have vowed to lose 15 pounds by our Camp Fair in April – so I filled up at the salad bar.
After living in California for years, I have high standards for a salad bar. This one passed with straight A’s.
No wilting lettuce or soggy tomatoes. Everything fresh and tasty.
Also at the salad bar were freshly made hummus with pita bread (terrific!) and, new to me, a gluten free southwest quinoa salad, featuring black beans and southwest seasoning. (I loved it!)
I finished the meal with fresh fruit (the school goes through 80 pounds of bananas and 125 apples every day). For dessert, I had yogurt topped with granola. (Sweet!)
It’s not surprising that the food is so good. Chef Ryan has a degree in the culinary arts from Sullivan University and worked at Portofino restaurant and the Rose Hill Inn.
At the recent Kentucky Proud Incredible Food Show at Rupp Arena, he won the pro-am chef competition with a Parmesan herb grit cake with Swiss chard, beef tips, roasted sweet potatoes and Shiitake mushrooms.
Chef Ryan is more than a good cook – he’s also an educator. At each meal in the school cafeteria, he shares interesting facts about food with the students and staff, and introduces students to new foods.
“What I feed off of is education,” he said. “Every day we have 600 people in here learning about food. It has built an excitement level that makes this job great.”
All I can say is “Bon Appetit.”