PORTSMOUTH — The Portsmouth High School cafeteria hosted a culinary smack-down Friday morning that was designed to shine a light on healthy and creative meal ideas and the importance of not wasting food.
On the nationally recognized Stop Food Waste Day, Steve DaFonseca, executive chef with Chartwells, created buffalo chickpea tacos and Jared Becker, regional executive chef for Chartwells, made beet and sweet potato fries. The chefs created the dishes specially for Friday’s event. Students sampled the food over the course of three lunch periods and cast votes for their favorite one.
Chartwells is a dining services company that serves 500 school districts across the country, including Portsmouth, Newport, Middletown, Tiverton and other school districts in the East Bay area. Portsmouth High was selected as the location for company’s inaugural Waste Warrior cooking challenge.
“They embody sustainability every day,” Amy Keister, senior vice president of sustainability for the Compass Group, Chartwells’ parent company, said about Portsmouth High School. “They really live it.”
How? The foods served in the school’s cafeteria are supplemented with produce from local farms and community gardens, Keister said. The fit was a natural in terms of where the company’s anti-food waste event would take place, and Portsmouth expressed interest, Keister said.
“In the United States, 40 percent of food is wasted,” said Sara Patterson, dietician with Chartwells. “I think people don’t even realize how much food is thrown away.”
Flyers were made available for students with tips on how to minimize food waste. “90 percent of us throw away food too soon,” the flyer read. “Utilize recipes during the week that will use up the food that’s about to go bad in your pantry or refrigerator. Just because your lettuce is wilted doesn’t mean it’s time to toss it.”
Becker seasoned his beet and sweet potato fries with rosemary and Parmesan cheese as a throng of hungry high school students watched. He kept the vegetable skins intact for the fries, since they’re nutritious.
“We don’t need to throw that part of the vegetable out,” he said. “We can eat it.” He served his fries with a buffalo ranch sauce.
DaFonseca stirred a pot of spiced chickpeas for his tacos. He said Friday’s event shows kids they can cook delicious food while still being environmentally friendly. “It’s going well so far,” he said early into the competition.
far,” he said early into the competition.
“It’s really good,” Sarah Alexander, a sophomore, said about her chickpea taco. Alexander is a vegetarian, and the event highlights the fact that people don’t need meat to create flavorful and hearty dishes, she said. “Anything can work, and it tastes really good,” Alexander said.
Ryan Mcneilly, a freshman, agreed. She said the event highlighted alternative ingredients for classic dishes.
“It’s so cool,” said Gabby Biehn, a freshman, who opted for a beet and sweet potato fries taste test. “It doesn’t even taste like it’s supposed to be healthy.”
Abbie Armijo, a freshman, said she doesn’t normally like spicy food, but she loved the kick of the tacos.
“It’s really good,” said Emma Magnuski, a junior, of the chickpea tacos. “It tastes like spicy chicken.”
The chickpea tacos garnered 76 of the votes while 27 students cast votes for the sweet potato and beet fries. Becker represented the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and DaFonseca the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Since DaFonseca was the winner, Chartwells donated $500 to his charity.
Newport Daily News