- Dan Giusti
Daniel Giusti, a former chef at Noma – a Copenhagen restaurant consistently deemed the “world’s best” – has left the world of fine dining. Now, he’s taken on an even more daunting task: redesigning the public school lunch.
In January, Giusti launched Brigaid, a startup that aims to put professional chefs in public school cafeterias in order to improve their lunches.
“We’re constantly asking ourselves: ‘What can be better tomorrow?’ Just like you would do at a restaurant … ‘How can we make this better every day for these students?'” he tells Business Insider.
This summer, Giusti got approval to pilot his program in New London High and Bennie Dover Jackson Middle, two schools in Connecticut. After receiving more than 275 applications to work in the schools, he chose April Kindt and Ryan Kennedy, two trained chefs ready to take on the challenge of making the schools’ lunches tasty, nutritious, and cheap.
The US Dept of Education mandates that lunches cost under $3.18 to produce, an amount the government reimburses schools for free lunches. That amount (which the Brigaid team has been able to meet) includes the ingredients, transportation, labor, and maintenance costs.
Classes started on September 1 for the two schools. Keep scrolling to check out what the Brigaid team has come up with so far.
The ingredients for Brigaid’s lunches each cost around $1.35, and Giusti’s team has been able to keep the total cost under $3.18. Six Connecticut schools will have their own Brigaid chef by November 1.
With the new year starting, the team is testing all kinds of dishes, including these meatballs cut with mushrooms.
The main entrees rotate every day. On some days, kids get their choice of a sandwich. Options include chicken salad, hummus with roasted vegetables, tomato with pesto, and roasted turkey and cranberry sauce.
Students can also choose from Brigaid’s soups, like turkey chili, pumpkin with spice, tomato, and chicken with rice.
All of the meals are delicious and cheap, Giusti says. The ingredients for these cottage cheese and spinach quesadillas, for example, cost less than a dollar.
Kennedy, one of Brigaid’s chefs, developed grilled Adobo chicken handpies with salsa roja, stacked roasted yukon, and a fruit salad with strawberries, blackberries, mango, and mint. The ingredients only cost $1.26.
This school lunch — baked chicken nuggets with French dressing, zucchini fries, and fruit salad — meets USDA nutritional guidelines and cost $1.33 to produce.
And the ingredients for these Cuban pork Arepas with a stack of plantains and cilantro-honey mandarin oranges cost even less: $1.28.
One cost-saving strategy is using simple ingredients. For the first marinade of the roasted chicken with brown rice and kale salad pictured below, the team developed a marinade with pureed herbs and veggie oil (which ended up costing just as much as the chicken). The second iteration features dried herbs instead of the pureed herbs, so it cost even less.
The Brigaid team makes a valiant effort to prepare food that the students will love, like these roasted BBQ chicken thighs.
“With a large Hispanic population in New London, we think it is completely unacceptable to serve food that represents their culture and heritage improperly. No more lousy tacos and Nachos,” Brigaid writes on Instagram. Here’s a photo of Spanish brown rice on September’s menu …
With a large Hispanic population in New London, we think it is completely unacceptable to serve food that represents their culture and heritage improperly. No more lousy tacos and Nachos. We are trying to step up our game big time by having different cooks from the community come and show us how it is done. Here is a picture of a recipe we made for Spanish Rice that was taught to us by Milli, one of the cafeteria staff and respected cook in the local neighborhood. To make it USDA compliant, it is made with brown rice here. September School Lunch Menu, 2016.
… and pulled pork soft tacos, which features ingredients that cost just $1.35.
@dcbruckner posted these Pulled pork soft taco beauties…what a school lunch that would be! Made for only $1.35 ! Chefs, cooks, everyone..get in the game and make a delicious and nutritious meal that you would have loved to eat for lunch when you were in school and tag it #brigaid !! The total cost of the meal must be $1.35 or under…