Normally, Chef Rene Fernandez is trying to please the discerning diners’ palates at his Azuca Restaurant, but now he is trying his fare on elementary students at St. Anthony’s Catholic School.
It’s a new food program at the school for the kids, who are enjoying a brand-new building on Huisache in Monte Vista, complete with a restaurant-quality kitchen and cafeteria.
Fernandez was asked to create a healthy but delicious menu for the school, but in the process, he had to change the perceptions of cafeteria eating, too.
“You know, I was really afraid because I did not know if they were going to be having a big shock between pizza and roasted chicken, but they are loving it (and) they are coming in for seconds,” said Fernandez.
On Wednesday’s menu was an assortment of food you’d normally see in a true restaurant: herbed chicken, barbeque ribs, fish and shrimp chowder.
Instead of it being pre-packaged in any way, it’s all manually chopped, cooked and served fresh.
Diego Hernandez is the daily chef who has six assistants making sure the fresh fruit bar and salad bar are living up to their standards.
As lunch is served, he starts the next day’s breakfast and lunch.
"Roasted chicken with a chimichurri sauce. Everything is made from scratch,” he explained of their mission to avoid anything frozen, in a can or out of a squeeze bottle.
This food isn't just delicious and fresh, it's also healthy.
It's the work of a cardiologist who designed the Por Vida project in the city of San Antonio to make sure restaurants were offering healthy items on their menus, too.
St. Anthony’s wanted to get in on the idea, provided the kids like it.
Enrique “Kike” Garcia says they’ve embraced the idea, even trying foods like fish that they normally wouldn’t eat at home.
Garcia admits some of it is different, but said, “It's a whole lot different from last year, it's nice."
Another student says she loves the new salad bar.
Barkley Mentor said, “It's so good. We have a lot of food that we never really tried before. It's really healthier than the other lunches we used to have."
Garcia notes that the best part is that the youngest children are trying foods at school and learning to like them, perhaps changing the standard from adolescent diet for the better.
She says she’s even noticed a lack of mid-afternoon hunger from the well-rounded meal each day.