Lodi’s Full Service Kitchens — The List and the Reason

“The full-service kitchen,” says Lodi’s Warren Sun, “offers greater flexibility for the menu planner to plan healthy meals that utilize fresh produce (much of it locally grown) which has a strong appeal to our student customers.” The tilting skillet, shown at the left,  is  on Warren’s list… and more. To see the list of Lodi’s Equipment Guidelines Overview, click here: Equipment Guideline.

Warren Sun, recently promoted to Senior Director of Operations  at Lodi Unified School District from his former position as Director, Child Nutrition Program, told us he had a list of “must have” equipment for his school kitchens. We asked him to share with our readers his reasoning behind the list, and the list itself. We think you’ll find his rationale for equipment in the kitchen, and his list, quite useful. These are Warren’s words:

Background Information

Lodi Unified School District is widely spread throughout Lodi and part of the North Stockton region, which covers approximately 350 square miles. The District currently has 50 schools with about 28,600 students. District wide average daily meal participation is 30,000 meals per day, with about 20,000 lunches and 10,000 breakfasts. These meals are prepared at 38 fully equipped service kitchens.  Two of them are Centralized Transport Kitchens located in the north Stockton and Lodi Area. These Central Kitchens provide about 3,000 meals for 10 satellite schools.

In the past decade, the Child Nutrition Program has been through many changes to improve the quality of food and services to meet the USDA dietary guidelines and demands for healthy and tasty food for the diverse student populations. The major changes made were menu choices and the cooking process.

The menu
now offers a minimum of 3 to 10 entrée choices a day which vary with different age groups, a fresh garden bar that offers a variety of fresh produce, with much locally grown. The cooking process has integrated many of its meals from scratch cooking, including freshly-baked goods offered daily, such as cinnamon rolls, scones, dinner rolls, etc.  As a result, the breakfast participation has tripled and lunch has doubled.

As with any food service program, the menu is the most influential factor in the success or failure of the program. It serves as the primary control of the food service operation. However, the menu planning options are largely dictated by the types of kitchen layout and equipment availability.

One of the factors contributing to our program success is the existing infrastructure of full-service kitchens at almost every school in Lodi. The full-service kitchen offers greater flexibility for the menu planner to plan healthy meals that utilize fresh produce (much of it locally grown) which has a strong appeal to our student customers.

The Multifunctional Equipment

Beside ovens, warmers, dishwashers, cold and dry storages in a full-service kitchen, there are two types of equipment that are essential for the large quantity scratch cooking process, which are Braising Pans and Mixers.

Braising Pans, also known as tilting skillets or tilting-frying pans, are among the most versatile appliances found in the school food service or any commercial kitchen.  They are used to braise, sauté, broil, roast, boil, fry, griddle, hold and steam. This multifunctional cooking equipment can save time and space by performing the jobs of many different appliances. Throughout the day, the braising pan may provide extra griddle space for cooking scrambled eggs or to sauté or stir-fry vegetables; can also be used as a kettle to prepare a large quantity of rice or pasta; or be fitted with steamer baskets to prepare vegetables. We have many very popular menu items that are prepared by using the braising pan.  For example, Chicken Chow Mein, Fried Rice, Turkey Roasts, different Pasta dishes, and Soup.

Large Mixer (60 qt.)
is another multifunctional equipment. This mixer can make different types of dough for breakfast items such as cinnamon rolls, and scones, to dinner rolls, pizza and bread dough, and cake batters, to mashing potatoes. The mixer, with different attachments, can also be used for grinding meat, shredding cheese and slicing vegetables.

The concept of the Full-Service Kitchen fits right into our vision of freshness and creative cooking for the school meal program. This in turn promotes healthy eating habits and therefore a healthier lifestyle among all our school children.

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