School lunch near top of class

DCSD crew earns red ribbon in Capitol cook-off

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Douglas County School District’s lead Nutrition Services employees earned second place and impressed state legislators with their cooking talents in March during the annual Colorado Ag Day at the state Capitol.

The annual event spotlights state agriculture by partnering a dozen chefs with ranchers and legislators to create Colorado-born dishes. Judges awarded DCSD’s braised beef short ribs the red ribbon in the Farm-to-Fork cook-off.

“It’s fun to show off that school lunch is cool,” DCSD executive chef Jason Morse said. “It’s not mystery meat anymore.”

Colorado Agriculture Secretary John Salazar teamed with Morse and catering manager Kim Wolfrum to serve the ribs in the rotunda.

“We served easily 500 off of our table alone,” Morse said. “There was a line the entire day.”

Prep work began two days before the downtown Denver event in DCSD’s catering kitchen at Douglas County High School. Ralston Valley Beef donated the meat, and the DCSD team took it from there.

“Because we couldn’t have open flames and cook inside the Capitol rotunda, we had to bring everything with us,” he said. “We seasoned the meat, rubbed the beef and let it sit, then came in and braised it the next day. The morning of, we finished the braise, removed it from the bone, hand-shredded the meat, loaded our cars up and headed down.”

Morse, who sits on the Colorado Chefs Association board of directors, described it as “an amazing day.”

“As an industry leader, I think it’s wonderful to be involved in it,” he said. “As a school district chef, it gains us so much exposure. My goal has always been to put us on the map for school lunch.”

While Morse won’t share all the ingredients that went into the award-winning ribs, he will reveal the one he thinks is key to DCSD Nutrition Services’ overall success.

“We’re not just putting things on trays and sending them out,” he said. “When Kim and I cook, you can taste the love in our food. That translates absolutely through to the cooking.”