Thursday, October 02, 2014

Meet Jason Hull, Marin Country Day School's Visionary Head Chef

Meet Jason Hull, he is the type of man that is an action-oriented visionary that will effect change on generations while going largely unheralded. School lunches, the focus of his vision, have been a wasteland of over-processed food and budget concerns for decades. Luckily, he works at a school that has the resources to energize change, but it is Jason that "fires up" the vision and sees it to the plate.

He buys locally whenever possible, rather than falling prey to corporate kickbacks. He works to transform children's palates to recognize the various delicious flavors of healthy food, rather than making bland food taste "better" by the addition of salt and sugar. Jason sees beyond the chicken nugget; he sees how a seed becomes a sprout can become a movement. We sat down with Jason to ask him a few questions about his passion, and to find out more about this amazing individual.

What are you passionate about?

Simply, kids and food. Teaching kids how to fuel their bodies in a healthy and sustainable way is what its all about. Passing along the life skills of growing and cooking their own food is the driving force behind the Culinary Farm program at MCDS.

Why Food?

Food connects people and communities in lots of different ways around the world. I enjoy seeing those connections being made when people gather to eat. I am always trying to find the freshest, most sustainable, least processed way to feed my school community. It is a never ending challenge. Also my grandmother and mother were great cooks so I was always in the kitchen with them from a young age. I am most inspired and happy when in the kitchen.

What is the most challenging aspect creating a healthy lunch program?

Creating and executing a menu that 650 different taste buds will like from the 5 year olds all the way up to the adults. And doing it in a healthy, sustainable and mindful way. I am lucky to have an incredible kitchen crew. We are so fortunate to live in Marin and have access to such amazing farmers and their food. If you could only change ONE thing about school lunches what do you believe would create the biggest impact? Make REAL food. It is frightening to see how much processed “food” we feed our kids in America. You don’t need healthy “guidelines” when you cook from scratch.

What does your garden grow?

Bob Densmore, a long time science teacher, and I run the Culinary Farm program at MCDS which brings our students into our three campus gardens, the chicken coop, greenhouse, and the kitchen. We were able to grow and harvest over 1,600 pounds of fruits and vegetables last year. We are hoping to double that production this year. All produce goes right into our lunch program which includes but is not limited to: two kinds of kale, chard, lettuce, lemon cucumbers, pumpkins, lettuces, onions, potatoes, beets, radishes, leeks, garlic, collards, squash, tomatoes, celery, parsley, basil, cilantro, thyme, cabbage,mint, fava beans, chives, edible flowers and carrots.

Cupcakes or Cookies?

My lovely wife Erin has owned both a cupcake and cookie business and was great at making both……gotta go with cookie!

What should I have asked and what is the answer?

What is your philosophy around cooking? Keep it simple, fresh and fun!

Enjoy this kid friendly recipe from Chef Bobo's Good Food CookBook

Cream of Cauliflower Soup

Makes approximately 6 servings
    2 tbsp butter
    1 medium onion, chopped
    5 cups cauliflower florets
    2 cups vegetable stock
    1 tsp salt (or less, to taste)
    ground white pepper, to taste
    1 tsp ground coriander
    1 cup milk
    2 tbsp minced parsley
Heat butter in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and allow to sweat -- to become translucent, until they begin to turn golden brown. Add cauliflower and stir -- cook for about two minutes.
Add stock, salt and pepper to taste, and add coriander to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Allow to simmer for about 25 minutes. Cauliflower should be tender.
Ladle soup into a blender a little at a time, and blend until smooth. (Hold down top with a towel.) When all is pureed, add milk to thin the consistency a little bit. It may not be necessary to use the whole cup of milk.
Adjust the seasoning, and then ladle into bowls. Garnish with minced parsley.

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