Parkway e-News Story
Dear Chef Dan
Fan letters are usually written to rock stars and celebrities, but Parkway’s new chef Dan Flick has just received a delicious note all his own.
Laila Jones, a Green Trails elementary student, wrote to Dan after tasting some of his new menu items in Parkway cafeterias. Dan’s healthy new offerings include everything from Southwest Chicken Salad – spiced with cilantro to avoid too much salt—to brownies with black beans.
“The letter was special,” says Green Trails Principal Rene Sommers, because it was “unsolicited.” Early this year, Laila asked Sommers why the cafeteria food was so good, and Sommers responded that Parkway was trying to prepare healthier foods for students and had hired a new chef. Laila didn’t let the matter drop. The cafeteria food used to be “terrible,” she told Sommers, “and now it tastes good, like real food.” Whereas once Laila had insisted on bringing her lunch every day, now she looked forward to buying lunch at school.
Given her passion for the new menu, Sommers suggested Laila write Chef Dan a letter. Thus was born Chef Dan’s first elementary-school fan letter.
Chef Dan, also a production supervisor for Parkway, has plenty of other fans as well, of course. “My fifth grader and high-school student have also commented on the good and healthy food,” says Laila’s mom, Jennifer Cordes-Jones. Recently, Central Middle students gave outstanding reviews to Chef Dan’s beef stroganoff.
“We are one of the few districts in the area that still has its own food service operation,” says Dan. “We are trying to revitalize our whole program and do more scratch cooking.”
Dan’s boss, Marlene Pfeiffer, is a dietitian and the new director of Parkway food services. “Better quality food for students” has been her main goal.
“Dan makes the food more appealing and knows how to spice food with more flavor but with no more calories or fat,” says Pfeiffer. For instance, his Southwest Chicken Salad, a favorite of Laila’s, relies on cilantro and a salsa of black beans and corn for much of its flavorful seasoning.
Pfeiffer says Dan’s background as a chef at L'Ecole Culinaire appealed to her when she hired him. “I knew he could teach others how to carry out the recipes.”
Dan would also like to set up a garden to produce some food that can be used in district kitchens. Parkway has three regional kitchens at high schools, which produce food for all 28 schools.
Meanwhile, Laila’s mom says she is happy to know her children can receive a nutritious lunch at school that is enjoyable. “I am so busy running them around after school, what with ballet and other activities, etc., that there isn’t always time to eat. “As a parent, it is really important to me to know they have received at least one nutritious meal for the day.”