Food service chef teaches culture through cuisine
BY EILEEN PERSIKE
“Maybe you put the hummus on the flatbread..?”
“It’s good. It’s very good.”
Two Rhinelander High School seniors, Ben Radzinski and Nicholas Bowman, figured it out and worked their way through an international school lunch Monday. The meal consisted of braised Israeli chicken shakshuka with Israeli hummus and flatbread. This was the first time Bowman, a self-described picky eater, tasted hummus and he said it was really good.
“They said it was Israeli spaghetti, with tomato sauce, chicken, feta cheese, bell peppers and stuff,” Bowman said. “I think it’s pretty good – spicy. Something I would need to eat in a small amount.”
The international cuisine comes with the school district’s food service contract with Taher. Chef Christopher Murray is one of about a dozen Taher chefs who travels around the world, eats the food and comes back to try to recreate it.
“I’ve been to 22 countries and counting,” Murray said. “We’re leaving for Spain and Portugal in March. I’m privileged to get to make that trip and come back and write recipes and bring them to the schools and teach the kids what they are and try to teach culture through food.”
Chef Chris is at the high school once a year and at the middle school usually twice a year, said school district food service director, Pat Karaba.
“It’s great to grab [the middle school students’] attention a little bit before they get up this way,” she said. “Then they are more apt to try something new once they get to the high school.”
It puts fun in food for kids, Murray added. And he said he heard a lot of positive comments.
“They get that half hour break; they might as well have some fun,” he said.
In addition to an occasional meal, Karaba said they have done sampling at James Williams Middle School and at Central, where the students sampled Bananas Foster last year.
“When they see Chef Chris walk in the door, they’re all over it,” Karaba said.
It may not have been a typical school lunch at Rhinelander High School, but it offered a taste of a culture halfway across the globe, that, who knows… could inspire travel among those student diners.
As Chef Chris put it, “Kids now days, with what they see on the internet and on reality television, their palates are a lot different than when we were kids, they tend to try new things.”