Dalton Food Symposium Sets Model for Schools Across the Nation to Follow

by NYC Firm Schools on February 18, 2011

Artisan bread to commemorate the day

While most were indulging in chocolate and writing love letters this Valentine’s Day, the high school students of The Dalton School engaged in an entire day of education about the culinary, social, economic and environmental aspects of food and eating in America today. The Dalton Food Symposium brought together farmers, chefs, food writers, community activists, restaurateurs and artisanal food producers to speak to and interact with students in order to expand their perspective about food and introduce them to the concepts of the food movement that is currently taking place in our country.

“We planned the food symposium, because we wanted to raise our students’ consciousness about the social, economic and environmental consequences of the food choices they make,” states Bob Sloan, Dalton Theatre Teacher/Theatre Department Chair and cookbook author. “It was a huge success that relied on the contributions of many people, including faculty, students, parents, alumni, our foodservice team, and local food purveyors and activists willing to take time out of their schedules to educate the next generation of leaders in the food movement. I hope our symposium can act as a model for schools across the country to engage their communities and provide a day of food education for their students.”

The day started with the cafeteria set up as a green market of local farmers, food producers and distributors, many of which are Dalton alumni or purveyors used by Dalton’s foodservice company, Flik Independent School Dining, and who supplied the ingredients for the day’s locally and seasonally-inspired lunch menu.

Students then observed a culinary demonstration by Bob Sloan and Zach Cooper, a former Dalton student and Station Chef at Morandi, an Italian trattoria by restaurateur Keith McNally. As they brought students through the steps of making Moroccan Merquez (spicy lamb or beef sausage) and Chicken Stew, the instructors emphasized basic culinary skills, including how to cut vegetables, brown meats and maintain a heat source conducive to bringing out the flavors and aromas of the stew ingredients.

Eric Schlosser and Dan Barber

Next came the highlight of the food symposium. Writer and food activist Eric Schlosser and sustainable chef, restaurateur and food writer Dan Barber gave a tag-team keynote about the future of food in America. Rather than lecture, they engaged the audience in a two-way conversation led by students’ questions. The dialogue hit upon all aspects of food production in America, as well as encouraged students’ career interests in food and cooking. It was easy for the students to relate to these two food advocates, as they are both Dalton alumni.

After a morning of exciting food education, the students were treated to a delicious lunch composed of fresh, locally-grown and seasonal ingredients, planned and prepared by the Flik Independent School Dining foodservice team, led by foodservice director Walter Lyczkowski and executive chef Leon Stallone.

Lunch platter of Roasted Fennel Salad with Parmigianino Frico, Apple and Red Onion on Frisee and Farro with Grilled Vegetables and Nebbiolo Vinaigrette

The menu consisted of: roasted leg of lamb for which the lamb was supplied by a local New York beef and lamb producer; a choice of seasonal vegetable and whole grain side dishes of roasted potatoes, Brussels sprouts, acorn squash, roasted fennel salad and farro with grilled vegetables, for which all ingredients were supplied by a local produce and gourmet food distributor; baskets of crusty durum bread from a local New York City bakery and; espresso tiramisu for dessert, from a gourmet bakery located just north of the city.

Artisan bread to commemorate the day

The day concluded with a one-hour seminar for which the students could choose from a menu of 18 topics, including cooking science, sustainability, restaurant management, food writing and community organizing. The seminars were presented by a mix of Dalton alumni, parents and friends of the school, a great way for students to relate to these topics and understand that they, too, can make a difference in the food movement of America.

It takes a village to raise and educate kids. The Dalton School believes food education should be part of that upbringing and they’ve shared their model for schools across the nation to do the same.

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