At Hubert, we like to say that when it comes to success, people are the main ingredient. People like Chef and Historian Ernest Miller can change expectations from a meal. An everyday school lunch can be transformed into a history lesson if you wind up in the kitchen with Miller. He’s passionate about educating people through food and classes from his business, RLM Provisions LLC as well as through his position as corporate chef for Coast Packing Company.
Miller shared with us his experience creating nutritious and flavorful school lunches that reflect local history. Recently, he helped high school students compete in a Kid Healthy program to create a healthy and appealing school lunch that was recognized by judges in two categories.
Tell us about your role as a chef-mentor for California High School.
Ernest Miller: “I was honored to have the opportunity to mentor young, up-and-coming culinarians at California High School in Whittier, Calif. I was asked to support three seniors as they participated in the “Cooking Up Change” contest for Kid Healthy in Orange County. The contest had the students develop a healthy, tasty school lunch that meets USDA guidelines on a very limited budget ($1.25). I met with the students for two to three hours about once a week as we went through the recipe development process over a period of a couple of months.”
— Ernest Miller (@RLMProvisions) April 21, 2017
What is the Cooking Up Change contest all about?
EM: “Cooking up Change challenges high school culinary students across the country to create a healthy and delicious school lunch that meets national nutrition standards on a tight budget. Using only ingredients and equipment commonly available for school food service, students create recipes that appeal to their peers and can easily be replicated on a large scale in real school kitchens.
“Ensuring that children get proper nutrition as well as learn to cook healthy meals is one of the most important aspects of education. Without these children will not learn in the classroom as well as they should, and our nation will languish as these students mature but suffer from obesity-related diseases, lack of productivity and poor quality of life. ”
“RLM Provisions LLC is my personal company through which I teach classes and give lectures at museums, libraries, schools and other venues throughout Southern California. I am on the speakers’ bureau for the Culinary Historians of Southern California and a lecturer with the National Food & Beverage Foundation. I also make and sell fermentation kits for creating healthy, delicious pro-biotic foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi and traditional kosher dill pickles.”
— Ernest Miller (@RLMProvisions) April 20, 2017
Would you tell us a little bit about this #cookingupchange entry… what’s on the tray that won Third Place overall and Best Table Presentation?
EM: “One of my specialties is California agricultural and culinary history. So, I encouraged the students to incorporate that history into their dishes. After all, they are from California High School!
“The main course is a California Tuna Melt Torta. Many people don’t realize that the tuna canning industry was started in San Pedro, CA in 1903. It became such an important part of our Southern California economy that a tuna is featured on the county seal for Los Angeles County. The sandwich is a tuna melt, because the patty melt was invented in California and this is a variation. Finally, the sandwich incorporates black beans, turning it into a torta – which represents the Hispanic heritage we Californians all share.
“The vegetable is a Santa Barbara Ranch-style salad, with lettuce and tomatoes. Because of our amazing climate, California is and has been the leading producer of lettuce in the US. Our ability to provide lettuce to the rest of the United States year-round is one of the many reasons salad is taken for granted. California also leads the nation in tomato production and it was University of California researchers who developed the mechanically harvestable tomato. The dressing is a ranch variation. Why? Because it was Hidden Valley Ranch near Santa Barbara that popularized the ubiquitous flavor.
“The fruit is “California is the Peach and Granola State.” Canned peaches are featured because, despite claims by others to the “Peach State” label, California produces 50% of the nation’s fresh peaches and over 95% of the canned. Granola provides contrast in texture and flavor, as well as reminding eaters that California is nicknamed the “Granola State” because of our reputation for healthy, environmental dining.
“Not only was our food delicious, but it provided 100% of the daily recommended allowance of California history. Overall, the judge were impressed. They called our menu “daring” with an abundance of “unique flavors” and California ingredients. They were certainly impressed with our California heritage display that incorporated some of the amazing products of California agriculture.”
You’ve worked in education food service and understand the challenges faced to provide nutritious meals that students want to eat. What is a piece of advice you have for others working in this industry?
EM: “Just as we can season food with acid and salt, we can also season food with narrative. Food always has a story, and you can make the food better tasting and more appealing by sharing those stories with the students. Food is never just food; we serve mind, body and soul.”
A New Resource for School Food Service Professionals
Nourishing the next generation of leaders and achievers is no easy feat. At Hubert, we’re working with professionals like you every day to satisfy students and meet participation goals. This new resource is full of trends and tools to make the next school year your best. Request your copy: www.hubert.com/education