New foodie in town. No more lunch lady hairnets in Eagle County’s school cafeterias
Editor’s note: Chris DelSordo is the new food services director for Eagle County Schools. This is the first part of a two-part series on his approach to nourishing Eagle County students. Read the second part in the Friday, Aug. 24, Vail Daily.
EAGLE — You won’t miss the hairnets in the school lunch line, will you?
They’re gone from Eagle County school cafeterias, and so is all the prefabricated crap that’s prevalent in school lunches in so many districts around the country.
Chris DelSordo is Eagle County Schools’ new director of nutrition services, and almost everything you thought you knew about school lunches was demolished with the old buildings that are being replaced and remodeled up and down the valley.
“I want the kids to stay and eat. I want them to say, ‘This food’s great. We’re staying here,’” DelSordo said.
He’s also trying to get rid of that “lunch lady look,” DelSordo said. Hairnets are not required by any government or agency, he doesn’t like them, and his people will not wear them. They’ll be replaced by chef coats and hats to make them look professional, because they are.
New kitchens and more
When Eagle County voters gave the school district the green light to borrow $144 million ($230 million with interest) to make all of the school construction possible, new kitchens were part of it.
DelSordo joined the school district late last spring, looked around and his eyes lit up like a kid in a candy store — except candy is bad for you and he won’t be serving it in your kids’ school lunches.
However, he will be serving frozen yogurt, fresh vegetables, fruits and meats and healthy stuff your kids will actually eat. And yes, they’ll still hide veggies in their homemade pasta sauce, but don’t tell the kids. It’s a secret.
DelSordo said the new kitchens are “beautiful.”
The kitchens at Eagle Valley Elementary School and Eagle Valley Middle School are both brand new, as are the schools. There’s a new central kitchen attached to the middle school.
They’ll be catering local school events out of that kitchen.
“I always thought we should be doing our own catering. First, the people with the district get to see what we do. Second, we can keep the money in the district, and that money goes right back into the program,” DelSordo said.
They catered the Ride the Rockies folks when they rode through last month — 400 breakfast burritos with homemade green chili and a bunch of other tasty and healthy items.
He makes his own green chili with fresh green chilies from New Mexico. Another recipe has cactus in it. That one went to the Ride the Rockies folks. They devoured it all.
His green chili has been in 10 contests. He has won every one of them.
Part of all the new kitchen facilities is the new Southern Pride smoker. It’s huge. It’ll smoke 90 pork butts at once. When it’s not smoking pork butts, it’ll smoke chickens, turkeys and brisket.
DelSordo said he doesn’t like to toot his own horn, “but I’ve never had any brisket in a restaurant that touches this.”
He competed on the barbecue circuit for 17 years. The team name: “We Be Smokin’.” He has a storage unit filled with trophies and ribbons. The money went to support his barbecue habit.
He makes his own rub for the pulled pork, which ends up in pulled pork sandwiches on whole wheat buns. The smoked chickens are prepared in the same place. They’ll smoke turkeys for holidays, or whenever they feel like it. If you ask nicely, then they might sell you one.
The wood for that smoker is U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved Rocket Wood, wood just for food. If you’re curious, then he has the USDA certificates.
They even make their own chicken nuggets
If you insist, then you can have hot dogs, chicken sandwiches and nuggets. The hot dogs will contain no preservatives, nitrates or other stuff that makes hot dogs infamous. Chicken nuggets in most places are mashed and bleached bits of leftover chicken, pummeled into a chicken goo. It’s manipulated into shapes that do not occur in nature and then breaded and baked.
That will never happen in Eagle County Schools, DelSordo said. They make their own nuggets from the good parts of an actual chicken.
“It’s good for the kids, and the parents are more comfortable with it,” he said.
When the new schools open, DelSordo’s crew will cater the events. That means you can sample almost everything that will be on your kids’ lunch trays.
So when your children complain that there’s nothing to eat for their school lunch, you know your little darlin’s are taking some liberties with the facts.
DelSordo owned his own restaurants for years but got out of it because he wanted to do something with more purpose.
“I was making a difference, but only to my own wallet. Not in people’s lives,” he said.
He finished his degree at Fort Hayes State University, worked in some other school districts, applied for the Eagle County Schools job and got it.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and email@example.com.