Director, School Nutrition
Brantley County Schools
“A lot of school employees were taking a class at the local technical school, and part of the class created a recipe for Tortilla Casserole. It uses commodity salsa, ground beef and cheese. It called for cilantro, but cilantro is not readily available here, so we substituted spinach, and that has worked really well. Generally, our kids don't really respond well to Mexican food. But they like this casserole.”
Director of Food and Nutrition Services, UNC Hospitals
Associate Professor, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, NC
“I had been out to San Francisco a few years ago and tried California burritos. Now they're everywhere — Chipotle, Qdoba, Moe's. I had wanted to do a similar concept for years. But everyone who tries to imitate that style does it old school: plain old jarred salsa, shredded cheddar, diced tomatoes — the same old taco bar.
“I want cilantro, lime, jasmine rice, salsa made from scratch. About a year ago, developed the concept of Bandelaros. We wanted to make a great burrito, as good as or better than Chipotle: Healthy, inexpensive, good profit margin. It's also filling. We wanted to provide a good value for the entry-level staff here who are trying to manage their budgets.
“We went and looked at the chains — the beef they use at Chipotle, they call it ‘Barbacoa,’ but it's actually machaca. That's top beef round, surrounded by chipotle peppers and tomato, slow cooked until it shreds. It needs to look like a wet mop.
“You cook out the moisture, but the tomato breaks down and puts it back in. We also do pork carnitas and marinated chicken. Our rice is white with cilantro, lime and jasmine — white rice holds up better on the steam table. Our beans are canned, but we rinse them and add spices for a distinct flavor.
“We have some wonderful salsas — two different kinds and a corn salsa — that a staff member makes every day. We also have a tortilla press set up on the line. In addition to burritos, we have rice bowls. The burritos are $5.99, and employees get a 20% discount. The rice bowls are $2, a very good value.
“There had been some concern initially, that people wouldn't want rice and beans every day, but it's open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and from about 11:30 on, there's a line. We sell about 350 burritos a day.”
Project Manager, Nutrition Services
Saint Paul Public Schools
Saint Paul, MN
“I like to introduce different tastes to the kids, though sometimes they aren't sure about spicy Mexican food. We serve corn bread with green chiles mixed in and are often asked, ‘What are these green specks in the cornbread?’
“They've started to like jicima. We've served it for two years and it's been a hit. This spring we are going to try chayote. It looks like a big pear and it's related to squash. We've tested it with the kids, just cut into sticks, and they loved it. In May, we're going to try Fiesta Couscous with corn, cilantro, onions and jalapenos in a lime sauce.”
“We served the Hass Avocado and Mango Salsa for a tailgate promotion at our International Stations as well as part of a buffet for our conference dining services. This salsa is very versatile, and it's perfect with a quesadilla. The avocados are from Mexico as well. The feedback from the guests was great; they all loved it.”