chatham county schools chef challenge 2012

The Chef Challenge is all about bringing healthy, local food to Chatham County public schools’ kids and families. Along the way we all learn something new about the USDA, what it’s like to work in a public school cafeteria, and how the Chatham PTA is working tirelessly to improve the health and fitness of its youth. Onward and upward, always!

In 2012 our Chatham County Chef Challenge brought:

  • 17,400 healthy, delicious and creative school lunches were served in all 17 Chatham County Public Schools during our Farm-to-School Chef Challenge.
  • 4080 lbs of local sweet potatoes were sourced from C.V. Pilson Farm in Moore County for our 2012 Chatham County Chef Challenge to support Farm-to-School lunches!

The Abundance Foundation’s annual Chatham Chef Challenge involves all 17 Chatham County Public Schools and brings together 3 high-profile chefs and a dedicated team of superstar volunteers with a goal of bringing more fresh produce to school cafeterias as a platform to teach kids about eating healthier, and to bring greater local food access and education to all families.

During the Chatham County Chef Challenge, the county’s 17 public schools (about 8000 kids) participate in a 12-week program involving local “celebrity” chefs and all cafeteria staff, the PTA, principals, local farmers, the area USDA nutrition director and Dairy Council director to bring healthier, fresher school lunches to students.

The purpose of the Chef Challenge is to increase consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables by students in grades pre K-12 while supporting GAP-certified local farms when possible. Throughout the duration of the 12-week Chef Challenge, teachers in all 17 schools will facilitate complementary classroom lessons promoting physical exercise and making healthier food choices.

chef challenge

Mr. Sweet Potatos heading out to the schools, from Farmer Chester in Moore County

This program is a critical piece to The Abundance Foundation’s mission to educate youth and adults on local food, sustainable agriculture, and increase access to education and consumption of local food.

Read the latest press release: Chatham Chef Challenge 2012 Press

Here’s how it works:

Each chef or team is assigned a box of ingredients to create their recipe for a healthier school lunch. Each chef is assigned 5+ Chatham County Schools and the cafeteria managers, cafeteria staff, teachers and principals of those schools work with the chefs to learn their recipe and serve it on the chefs’ given Chef Challenge day.

During the month of March, the Chefs meet with the Cafeteria Managers and Staff at their designated schools for a Training Day on their new recipes. During March, Chefs and Farmers also visit schools that choose to hold Chef Challenge Assembly. These Assemblies offer students the chance to meet the Chefs and the Farmers and understand where their food came from and how their meals were created. The Cafeteria Managers and Cafeteria Staff are extra awesome for volunteering their time to learn the new recipes designed by each of the 4 Chefs. The 4 recipes are cooked by the staff and served to the students in all 17 Chatham County Public Schools on the Chef Challenge Days, which are April 19, April 26, May 3, and May 10th. On those days, over 8000 students have the opportunity to try the new lunch created by a superstar Chef with fresh and local ingredients. The students then take a survey to assess how they liked the Chef’s lunch. The recipes liked most by students permanently stay in rotation on the County’s school lunch menu.



Who: Chef Colin of The Granary at Fearrington
chef challenge

The School Teams: Siler City Elementary, Virginia Cross, Silk Hope, Jordan Matthews & SAGE Academy

Fresh Ingredients: Ground beef, sweet potatoes, whole grain pasta, Northern beans, peaches

Challenge Day: April 19th, 2012


Who: Chef Hamm of CCCC’s Natural Chef Program

chef challenge

The School Teams: Bennett, Bonlee, J.S. Waters, Chatham Middle, Chatham Central

Fresh Ingredients: Diced chicken, sweet potatoes, spinach, watermelon, whole grain tortilla

Challenge Day: April 26th, 2012


chatham chef challenge

Who: Chef Jay Pierce of Lucky 32

chef challenge

The School Teams: Northwood High, Perry Harrison, Pittsboro Elementary, Horton Middle

Fresh Ingredients: Ground turkey, sweet potatoes, brown rice, black-eyed peas,


Challenge Day: May 3rd, 2012


Who: Cafeteria Managers of Chatham County School lead by Larry Robinson

chef challenge

The School Teams: Pollard Middle, North Chatham Elementary, Moncure K-8

Fresh Ingredients: Chicken, Pinto beans, sweet potatoes, strawberries, whole grain rolls

Challenge Day: May 10th, 2012


For last year’s info, click here.

chatham county chef challenge

Moncure School lunch team with Chef Colin and Chef Jimmy

chatham county chef challenge

chatham county chef challenge

chatham county school chef challenge

chatham county chef challenge

Chef Jimmy with Northwood High cafe staff

chatham county chef challenge

planning meeting @ fearrington....we need to teach 17 schools how to make these menus and make it easy!