In 1943, Finland was the first country in the world to introduce a legislation on free school meals. The legislation aimed at offering a free meal on each school day for all elementary school students in 5 years’ time. The legislation also ruled that the students had to grow and harvest food on their spare time in order to have ingredients in the school canteen. One example of contributing to school meals was that each student had to bring 2 litres / 70 oz of lingonberries to school. The berries were then used for a porridge made of rye and lingonberries, which was a common dish at that time.
School dining is not only about nutrition
After the 5 year transition time, starting in 1948, students in elementary schools started to get free meals. Typical dishes at that time included different types of porridges and soups. The legislation has naturally been modified during the decades. Still the core purpose of free school meals stays the same, and that is to provide nutrition to students. In addition, nowadays also the educational and social aspects of school dining are in focus. When dining together, the children learn both social and interactive skills as well as to take others into consideration. School dining provides also education on food culture, good manners and appreciation of food. And these days the students no longer have to grow or harvest food for school. Instead, they now have the right to contribute by providing feedback on the food that is served.
Kitchen management system makes work in the school canteen easier
Today nearly 1 million children and adolescents in Finland enjoy a free meal served each and every school day. Free meals are financed with taxes and the communities are in charge of providing the meals to students. In order to ensure the nutritional content of meals and to be able to cook food according to a given cost structure, most of the school canteens in Finland utilize a kitchen management system. In addition to nutritional and financial aspects, a software system keeps all the recipes in store and makes it easy to plan menus. From the system you can even publish weekly menus online for the students and their parents.
Most of the school meals are cooked either partly or entirely in commissary kitchens and then delivered to individual schools. A kitchen management system enables the schools to create production requisitions to the commissary kitchen. The commissary kitchen will then be able to see all requisitions in the system for production. The system also calculates the need for ingredients based on menus or production requisitions which makes ordering quick and easy. Over half of the communities in Finland use JAMIX Kitchen Intelligence System for managing their food service operations comprehensively, including school dining.
From soups and porridges to a diversity of dishes
In seven decades the school menus have become more versatile compared to the early years. When I was in school, my favorite dishes included spinach soup, spinach pancakes and fish fingers. Chicken fricassee was one of the undesirable meals on my list. My school years are already far behind but both my favorites and least favorites can be found on the top 10 school meals of all time in Finland (Source: Fazer Foodservice poll 2018):
Food is thrown away every day in households, restaurants and the industry as well as already at the producers. You probably throw away large quantities of food yearly yourself, without even noticing it. Most of this food waste is a result of both unmade plans, but also of not following the plans that have been made. When you cook food in advance for more than one day, as you often do, you might end up eating something else the next day just out of an impulse. After a while, the ready made meals or untouched out-of-date packs are on their way from the fridge into the garbage bin. So there is a place for improvement.
I looked at some statistics on food waste and on the impact it has. Here are some figures:
One third of all food produced is lost or wasted (Source: FAO)
Households are responsible for almost half of the food wasted, but restaurants and other food service operations build up a notable 25 % share, as well (Source: Statista). Food waste could be avoided by better forecasting, or by preparing and storing food in another way.
Food that is produced for nothing puts a load both on the economy and the environment. Environmental effects are huge: the carbon footprint related to food waste is almost as big as the road transport emissions globally (Source: FAO).
Food waste is something that we most probably cannot get rid of completely, but it is clear that there is a need to reduce it.
New goals and legislation planned for reducing food waste
Fortunately the excessive amounts of food waste have been noticed in the past couple of years. The UN Sustainable Development Goals include cutting down food waste in half on the retail and consumer levels by the year 2030, as well as significantly reducing food waste within the whole production-distribution chain. Reaching the goals requires functional tools for continuous monitoring and reducing of food waste. Reaching the goal set by the UN, that is cutting down the food waste in half in a decade’s time, requires involvement from each food producer, business, retail store, restaurant and consumer.
Legislation needs to support the reduction of food waste. In France there is a legislation that forbids tossing food in retail stores and restaurants. Legislation really should be revised: The other day I heard from the radio that a part of food goes to waste already at the producers. This is caused almost solely by too strict quality standards for products: If the appearance of an item is not according to the standard, it doesn’t qualify to be sold in a store and it gets thrown away.
In addition to legislation, you need to educate people both at home and at work places, and provide tips and tools for reducing food waste. In Finland the Consumer’s Union has taken a grip on this and the national Food Waste Week is being arranged yearly in September. The campaign aims at encouraging everybody in reducing food waste and at the same time increasing the appreciation of food by providing information and practical tips. The campaign welcomes businesses and organizations as partners, and JAMIX has also been participating the Food Waste Week for several years now.
Restaurant management system helps in reducing food waste
As mentioned before, the lack of planning or the lack of systematic practises cause a major part of food waste. This applies both to households and to restaurants or other food service operations. Just implementing a kitchen management system with basic functionalities often already results in reduced food waste. But you can also maximize the benefits of the system with regards food waste by exploring it more extensively, and utilizing all the functionalities provided.
JAMIX KITCHEN MANAGEMENT system provides a great menu planning tool along with procurement management, which together aim at the best possible match between the amount of prepared food and the sales or consumption. The amount of diners and the portion sizes are easy to plan on the menu, and the program will automatically calculate the right amounts for recipes to be produced. The program creates a shopping list based on the menu, so you will have the exact need for ingredients for producing the meals on the menu. When you compare the list to the existing inventory, you will avoid ordering excessive amounts of ingredients which could end up in wastage.
In JAMIX software, you can also register the sales and wastage on the menu. This enables you to check the figures next time you are producing the same recipe, how much was produced for a certain amount of diners, how much was consumed and how much was left over. This makes updating of portion sizes on the menu easier. You can even let the program update the portion sizes automatically based on the sales and wastage registered in the system.
In addition to well executed menu planning, the inventory management functionalities in restaurant management systems and separate HACCP systems support food waste management. Inventory balance monitoring and inventory-take are useful tools in preventing out-of-date items from ending up in wastage, and by setting par levels for items you can prevent excessive ordering.
Customer feedback is another good tool for preventing food waste. Through collecting feedback either with a restaurant management system or otherwise, by listening to it and taking it into consideration in menu planning you can both increase your sales and prevent food waste.
By not producing food for nothing, or by not having out-of-date items to be tossed away, has an impact on the environment as well as on the costs for a kitchen. Ingredients are the biggest individual cost for a kitchen in addition to labour costs, and by forecasting the amount of food to be produced as precisely as possible and by monitoring the wastage you will quickly gain savings. The reduction of food waste might be pushed by legislation in the years to come, so it is worth while to start giving it a thought already now.
Here’s a culinary challenge to everyone cooking food – cook the vegetables! Somewhere in the last 15 years diners seem to have accepted partially raw vegetables on a plate, and cooks are delivering partially raw vegetables. The art of vegetable cookery has all but disappeared. That nuance between perfectly cooked and slightly raw has been overtaken by mostly raw vegetables served hot. Describing perfectly cooked vegetables is hard, but you know them when you eat them. An expertly cooked vegetable – cooked to the point JUST past raw – is a memorable dining experience.
So, come on, already chefs, take up my challenge and rediscover cooked vegetables. Give diners that element of their dining experience.
Master Chef Insights
A food operation’s recipe database along with the ingredient database establish the foundation for effective kitchen management. Recipes are built using the ingredients in the database. Ingredients provide data for costing, nutritional analysis, allergen information, and ingredient availability.Well written and accurate recipes help cooks, and cooks appreciate recipes that can help them in a production setting. Recipes help chef and cooks with production planning. Through clearly written, accurate recipes chefs can make production assignments for the entire culinary team according to skill and ability. Written recipes also become a training tool. When recipes are accurate and clearly written, managers and chefs have a strong tool which leads to recipe compliance.
When used properly, recipe compliance is not a top-down management tool. As used here, recipe compliance is cooks performing to an established set of standards. Part of those standards will include a mechanism to modify, and/or improve the parts that don’t work.
Recipe compliance impacts the operation in these ways.
Consistency. Food prepared according to a recipe is consistent in taste, doneness, quantity, cost, and appearance among other things.
Costs. Compliance to the recipe ensures that the operator knows the cost of each menu item.
Nutritional accuracy. Recipe compliance ensures the accuracy of the nutritional value of each menu item.
Allergen transparency. Recipe compliance confirms the trust bond between
All types of food operations benefit from developing and documenting recipes. The benefits reinforce the need for a kitchen management system. The cost benefits help operators to be successful, and the benefits from consistent taste and trustworthy information create brand loyalty.
Culinary & more…
Eat it NOW!
Not all food gets better with age. Cheese does, wine can, salumi definitely, braised meats the next day – sure. But this is about food that should be eaten NOW. Think fries. Fries never get better with age, never. That first batch of fries from clean fat, crispy on the outside, tender and steamy on the inside, just a light coat of fat and seasoned with the perfect amount of salt, and almost too hot to eat …is one of the perfect foods.
How come, then, did we get to the point where it’s ok to let food get “old”? Pizza is perfect immediately out of the oven. I know, we all ate refrigerator pizza for breakfast and said we love it. But it still wasn’t as good as when it was fresh out of the oven. Pizza is an Eat it NOW food, so are fried eggs/ spring rolls/ crabcakes/ grilled cheese/ ramen/ angel hair pasta/ risotto/ waffles. And then there’s toast. Something as simple as toast can be one of the best parts of breakfast if it’s toasted properly, then eaten while warm, crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside. There are so many other foods that are best when eaten as soon as they are done, because that is when they are perfect.
Somewhere, somehow, we started to lose sight that some food is best eaten immediately. We wanted food delivered or we want take-out. That’s fine, but not all food is suited for take-out.
Visiting southern California allowed for some delicious restaurant visits and the enjoyment of an ice cube.
Who gets impressed with an ice cube? Me. At the Sunset Tower Hotel patio bar I ordered a Campari on ice. The ice was a perfectly clear square which fit exactly in a rocks glass. The ice was so clear, one could read through it. The slow melt ensured that the drink wasn’t quickly diluted with water…..simple pleasures.
The surprise dinner experience was at Craig’s in West Hollywood. My daughter was interested in eating there and Craig’s serves Hungry Planet premium-plant based meats (disclosure – one of CulinaryNXT’s clients) so we made reservations. Craig’s is an exciting restaurant to walk into. Great hospitality and busy! The waitstaff is professional, knowledgeable, and know how to deliver hospitality. Chef Krizer’s kitchen delivered expertly prepared, delicious food. For more information craigs.la
Tal Ronnen’s Crossroads always delivers. Food, service, atmosphere, hospitality are all hallmarks of Crossroads. The food is innovative, expertly prepared, and delicious. Incidentally, it’s also vegan. I’ve eaten at Crossroads a half dozen times and it’s a great experience each time. For more information crossroadskitchen.com
In San Diego we met up with a fun chef friend, Jim Phillips and his wife at Trust Restaurant. Brad Wise is the Chef/Owner and clearly loves what he’s doing. The food was big flavor, fresh and satisfying. The kitchen is in the dining room and we sat at the chef’s table with a clear view into the hot zone. One of the surprises that night was a chicken liver toast with mostarda, grilled levain, radish, evoo! That was at the start of the meal and things continued to get tastier. For more information trustrestaurantsd.com
On a recent visit to NYC Chinatown I was introduced to Wilson Tang. Wilson is the owner of NYC’s oldest dim sum restaurant, Nom Wah Team Parlor. Not only did I get to experience Wilson’s dim sum, but I got to go on a walking tour of Chinatown with him including a stop at Aqua Best, Inc. In addition to the original Nom Wah Team Parlor, I visited Nom Wah Nolita which serves a new take on Chinese food.
Parsley doesn’t get the respect it deserves (neither does celery). This herb is undervalued in regard to flavor. In today’s kitchens parsley is thought of as a color. The full flavor impact of parsley jumps to life when it is freshly picked and included as a flavor ingredient in many foods.
The classic herb condiment, gremolata, puts parsley in the spotlight. Gremolata can be a flavor powerhouse for grilled or sautéed foods. Freshly picked and chopped parsley will ensure that your gremolata has the bright flavor expected of this condiment.
Take a fresh look at parsley and if you can use it freshly picked, you’ll rediscover a delicious ingredient.
CulinaryNXT is a food service advisory practice drawing on Ron DeSantis’ 30 years of experience in all facets of the food industry. Ron is one of only 68 Certified Master Chefs worldwide and has advised organizations of all sizes and types. His strengths include culinary innovation, menu and recipe development, culinary assessment, bottom-line results, and communication skills that allow him to implement solutions effectively.
CulinaryNXT’s base is in New Haven, but its reach is truly global. CulinaryNXT’s relationships extend to numerous countries around the world in a client and alliance network that has been built over many years. These relationships provide both global support and local knowledge.