Gourmet food revolution at CV
Clayton Valley Charter High School students line up at lunch time to grab a gourmet meal from “The Hungry Eagle”, the school’s new food truck. Chef Wayne Wells re-invents the school lunch using fresh ingredients that are cooked to order. Besides the Hungry Eagle fare, students can start the day with omelets and load up at the salad bar at lunch.
When it’s meal time at Clayton Valley Charter High School you will not find ladies in white dresses and hair nets dishing up soggy green beans and mystery meat or pizza the texture of cardboard. At CVCHS Chef Wayne Wells is creating a mini food revolution. All the food is prepared on-site, from scratch, and served up by Wells himself, dressed in his official chef’s jacket or his young, red-jacket wearing assistants.
From 6:45 to 7:45 a.m. students, staff, and even some parents line up for their made-to-order omelets. Choosing from 15 fresh ingredients including spinach, tomatoes, and mushrooms, students watch while Wells sautés all the ingredients together. He then adds the eggs and flips the omelets over like the expert chef that he is. Wells insists that if students choose ham, shrimp or other meats to add to their omelets, they must also choose at least one vegetable. He gets no resistance on this point; in fact, Wells goes through almost five pounds of spinach every day.
Jesse Madrid, a CVCHS parent, comes in every week on his day off for his omelet. He says, “the food is so good and reasonably priced.” At $2.25 for a restaurant quality, made-to-order omelet, fresh fruit, milk, and a choice of hash browns or whole wheat biscuit, he’s right. Director of Student Services Miguel Romo adds, “The omelets are amazing. I’ve never seen fresh made omelets at a school before. The kids love it.”
Kids Eating Healthy
Wells has been cooking gourmet meals for 40 years. He hails from the Midwest and originally learned to cook from his grandmother. He later trained professionally, worked as an Officer’s Chef in the Navy, a corporate chef, and an Executive Chef. But nothing has given Wells greater joy than his current gig. “It’s all about having a good time and getting the kids to eat healthy. If they start school with a full stomach, their day’s going to go better,” Wells explains.
Between breakfast, brunch and lunch, he serves about 600-700 meals per day. All the food is prepared on-site, not in a district kitchen which is often preparing food for thousands and then eaten miles away. Wells sources as much food as he can locally and must meet both the federal and state School Lunch Program guidelines. “But,” he emphasizes, “that does not mean the food can’t taste good. It’s all about the quality of the ingredients, cooking from scratch, and the food not made ahead of time.”
Little Red Truck
The newest addition to Wells’ food program is a little red food truck that he parks in the quad at lunch, bringing selected items to the kids who would rather be outdoors. School administration encouraged the truck as a way to serve more students by bringing both hot and cold food anywhere on campus. It has proved to be a good idea, as Wells is serving about 100 students from the food truck each day, after only three weeks on campus.
A contest to name the charming vehicle elicited 164 entries from students. The winning entry “The Hungry Eagle” is fitting, as the CVCHS mascot is the Eagles. It was submitted by Lauryn Randolph, who received free movie tickets, $20 and the prestige of having her name, along with the truck’s new moniker, added to the truck’s logo.
Kids line up for BBQ chicken sandwiches on whole grain buns, fajitas or Grandma’s Meatloaf with garlic mashed potatoes. The menu changes daily, but Wells always offers teen favorites: pizza (made with whole wheat crust and low-fat cheese) and smoothies (made with real fruit and yogurt).
As students wait in line they can listen to Wells’ music selection, ranging from disco to classic rock. Freshman Nathan Stratton says, “I love the food. I like the burgers and the chili dogs. The food has more taste than typical cafeteria food.” As Stratton makes his way to the front of the line, Wells is there to hand him his lunch accompanied by a few cheerful words.
Thanks to Wells and his crew, the students at CVCHS are eating healthier and there is a whole new meaning to school lunch. As freshman Brooke Warner sums it up, “The food is great. It’s cool to have a real chef at our school.”