NAVASEIA ‘NAVA’ BELLE, FOOD SERVICES MANAGER
JORDAN HIGH SCHOOL (WATTS), LAUSD
LOS ANGELES, CA
Origin: Born in Los Angeles, roots are Arkansas and Louisiana
Nava learned cooking at her grandmother’s side, “and she’s a really great cook. She’s 85 now, with no health problems. She rarely eats out but cooks her own. She has to have meat at every meal, she cooks her greens, loves succotash – okra and corn and hot water cornbread.”
Big Mama, Nava’s great-grandmother, lived to 109, and “she ate bacon and drank coffee every day of her life. Never anything wrong with her.”
Nava continues, “I love cooking, love making people happy. There is always something going on at my house –I’ve catered family reunions, weddings, funerals. I do lots of barbecues – ribs, chicken, fish, everything. We don’t eat ribs, or pork chops all the time. I believe in moderation, all in moderation.” With a favorite cooking list that includes home-made baked beans, soaked overnight to start, cooked, then drained with a special sauce stirred in, potato salad from scratch – boiled potatoes, peeled, all mixed with mayonnaise, bell pepper, mustard, and hard-boiled eggs, it’s not a surprise that she has crowds at her house.
“When I first started with the district, 12 years ago, the school where I worked had a real cook, cooking on a range. She was cooking fantastic food, a real old-fashioned cook. The teachers ate there too. I think the kids would eat, would participate more if the food was really good. And, now they are coming to learn that they are going to get a good meal at school.”
Nava says the school food is not to blame for making kids fat. “We don’t feed them enough to make them fat. And these kids, they are walking to school every day – they are getting exercise. She continues, saying that the food in the schools is healthier than it was and that even the flavored milk is gone in her school district.
Her own children get a home cooked meal, every night. “At home, I make things like salmon and lentils for my daughter. Not all people have the money for food, but some just raise up the kids on microwaved cups of noodles, with a lot of sodium in them.”
When asked what her favorite tool was, she immediately answered, “The Chopper. Some things just got to modernize. That chopper makes the work easier.” She laughs, referring to the big chopping machine in the back of the kitchen.