Hummus and gyros in the lunch line? New school district chef brings ‘restaurant twist’

See what Lexington’s new school district chef will be bringing to cafeterias

New school food samples were offered during a special Board of Education meeting by FCPS District Chef Todd Gorrell.
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New school food samples were offered during a special Board of Education meeting by FCPS District Chef Todd Gorrell.

To showcase the restaurant fare he’s bringing to Fayette County’s school cafeterias, the district’s new chef on Monday asked school board members to sample his beef gyros with tzatziki sauce, southwest fajita chicken on flatbread, a roasted garlic hummus sampler and side garden salads with homemade “Fayette house” ranch dressing.

Todd Gorrell said he worked at several Lexington restaurants before he went to work as an assistant in the Fayette school district’s food service division about five years ago. After being named the school district’s first chef this year, he faces the challenge of meeting child nutrition standards with low sodium, low fat, low sugar and whole grain foods on a “very tight budget.” That’s about $2 per complete meal per student, said Michelle Coker, district director of child nutrition.

Certainly, Gorrell said, he has to come up with meals that more than 40,000 Fayette students enjoy eating,

“It’s being as creative as possible with what we have to work with. We get a lot of USDA commodity items,” said Gorrell, a culinary school graduate .

One of the more unusual items offered in the lunchline, Gorrell said, is a vegetable called jicama from the turnip family with a taste that’s “very’s just a little bit sweet.”

“Our ultimate goal is to try new things,” said Coker.

“It’s not the corn and pizza that I had in school,” said school board member Stephanie Spires as she taste-tested Gorrell’s recipes at a special-called board meeting . “It’s all fresh, good flavor.”

“The hummus is wonderful,” said school board chairman Melissa Bacon. The hummus will be made on-site at school cafeterias.

“The dressings are made in-house,” said board vice-chair Ray Daniels. “It’s all healthy.”

Board members Daryl Love and Doug Barnett were also quick to praise the new food options.

But what will students and parents think?

Christian Cobb, a 16-year-old Tates Creek High School student who sat in on Monday’s taste test, said he liked what he sampled and he would choose it in the cafeteria. “It was good. I had the gyro. It’s something different.”

Christian’s mother, Amanda Cobb, said she was impressed by the chef’s offerings, especially the salads.

“There’s a lot of variety,” she said.

The idea, said Wendy Young, district food service coordinator, is to bring fresher food into schools. District officials want to procure more local farm produce.

“It’s putting a restaurant twist to school food," Young said.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears