Thursday, November 6, 2008

Days of Taste - The Unsung Heroes

Many in Dallas are familiar with the "big names" in our little food world, several participate in the Days of Taste program or other AIWF events that help increase food awareness in our community. However the majority who toil at these important culinary programs operate behind the scenes, with no glory for their hard work. Until now - because I spent the day working with many, who for various reasons gave up 5+ hours of their day at the Dallas Farmers' Market (and most like me had volunteered for more than one day of service), so this post is dedicated to them.

We have to begin with Robin Plotkin, RD, LD, she has been "running the show" for Days of Taste for the last five of it's ten years here in Dallas; getting it staffed, coordinating the schools, improving the program to perfection. And she's beautiful outside as well as inside (and a newlywed to boot). Then there's Melissa Keen (Lake Highlands, '83), co-owner with her chef husband of 3 Doors Down Catering in Richardson. Her crew included son Taylor Robertson (Sachse '08), and her staff of highly trained professionals, their smiles told everyone they were having as much fun as the kids. If they can do such a great job with 50+ fourth graders, imagine what they could do for your party!

Each class features a person who is connected to the production of food, last week it was Meaders of Empire Baking on one day and Paula of the Mozzarella Company on another. Yesterday it was Sandy Breuss of Sysco with her friend "Stubby". As Premier Protein Brand Manager her job is to educate restaurants and their staff about beef, now these kids know something about it too. Each class also features a local chef to teach about the "senses of flavor" and how the taste components (salty, sweet, bitter, sour, pungent, aromatics) influence our foods. Yesterdays chef was Brad Trudeau of DISD who handles the district's in-house Silver Star Catering in their food operations department. His talents kept the kids quiet, and he interacted by asking them questions as well as answering theirs.

It takes approximately 10 more volunteers to have the correct student-adult ratio, or rather it would have if the amazing Kramer parents hadn't shown up in force. They had 1 parent volunteer for every 5 kids, like dad Brandon Fox (Hillcrest '99) who seemed to enjoy every minute of his day with his daughter. Other volunteers included a spry group of ladies who said "Harriet got us into this a few years ago" (thank you Harriet) they were busily planning a girls'-afternoon-out after the Days of Taste work - I went home and collapsed; and some students from Tarrant County Community College Dietetic Technician program who were getting service hours towards their degree.

Just remember, this could be you. Keep your ears open for the next Days of Taste program, you won't want to miss the fun.

Pictures, from top: Staff of 3 Doors Down Catering were responsible for setting up over 20 tables each day; Melissa Keen, owner of 3 Doors Down gave the pre-show pep talk to the volunteers; "Stubby", Sysco's smaller model of beef parts (the larger version, "Studly" is life sized); Brad Trudeau chef of DISD's catering department.

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