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Katy ISD Nutrition and Food Services Managers Compete in District ‘Chopped Challenge’


August 16, 2022

By Natalie Cook Clark

Katy ISD Nutrition and Food Services Managers recently finished training to prepare for the 2022-2023 academic year. The managers competed this year in a fun 'Chopped Challenge' to incorporate applicable and fun skills into their department that serves every Katy student.

Jessica Maluy, Linda Wosel, Phuong Le, Nancy Nguyen, Nora Lara, Tatjana Divcic, Nina Hinojosa, Cheryl Lyons, Lucy Gallego, Kelly Kansas, Lori Hummeldorf, Carolyn Lee. Photo Credit: KISD

Katy School Cafeterias Ready to Greet Students

Katy ISD is ready to welcome over 90,000 students back to school tomorrow, Wednesday August 17, 2022. The Nutrition and Food Services is responsible for feeding all the active and learning Katy students. They recently completed training that ended in a fun twist.

Managers Competed in 'Chopped 'Challenge'

This year the Katy ISD Nutrition and Food Services Department competed amongst themselves in in fun yet applicable “Chopped Challenge.”

“It is important to our department to incorporate applicable skills into creative team building and training events,” says Donna Pittenger, Executive Director of Katy ISD Nutrition and Food Services Department. “This Chopped Challenge allows us to build rapport among our Café Managers in addition to ramping up the excitement for the start of the school year.”

This fun event was inspired by the TV culinary competition show, “Chopped” that many are familiar with. Cafeteria managers were divided into teams and reported to six high school across the Katy ISD District.

The teams were given 5 mystery ingredients that had to be incorporated into a vegetarian meal and a non-vegetarian meal. Items included: dragon fruit, purple potatoes, local brisket, and Korean BBQ.

Tompkins High School Winning Team- Non-vegetarian entry. Photo credit: KISD

Pittenger says that the challenge had two objectives. The first allowed the teams to collaborate in creative ways and build relationships among the managers. The second was that they used products that could be used on future menus.

“Utilizing our cafeteria managers to develop recipes allows us to obtain a different perspective from those who serve the students directly,” says Pittenger. “They know best when it comes to our students’ likes and dislikes.”

Last week during their training Katy ISD cafeteria managers refreshed and further trained on the requirements of the School Breakfast Program as well as the National School Lunch Program.

“We have shared updates, set expectations, and followed our theme of ‘Back to the Basics- Preparing for the Future’ as we move into what we hope is a ‘normal’ school year.

So many school departments were impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The last few years have been challenging, but our staff has continuously risen above those challenges, thrived, and fed hungry kids with a smile,” says Pittenger.

Katy ISD Food and Nutrition Department works hard to feed each Katy student that comes through their cafeterias.

“We work very hard to make sure their children receive high-quality products during every breakfast and lunch service,” says Victoria Todd, Manager at Mayde Creek High School. “We take pride in our work, and even though we see the students for a moment, we want to ensure they are satisfied with our meals and service.”

There are so many dishes and recipes served. Linda Wosel at Tompkins High School loves their Fiesta Bowl. Maria Carmina Bungay with Rylander Elementary loves the ‘All Farm Fresh Texas’ display that they have each year.

This “Chopped Challenge” was a fun and effective way to start the school year.

The winning team was led by Kelly Kansas, Nutrition and Food Service Coordinator, at Tompkins High School and included:

  • Linda Wosel- Tompkins High School

  • Nancy Nguyen- Tays Junior High

  • Phuong Le- Adams Junior High

  • Cheryl Lyons- Wilson Elementary

  • Jessica Maluy Fernandez- Wolman Elementary

  • Nina Hinojosa- Campbell Elementary

  • Lucy Gallego- Davidson Elementary

  • Tatjana Divcic- Jenks Elementary

  • Nora Lara- Bryant Elementary

  • Carolyn Lee- Memorial Parkway Elementary

  • Lori Hummeldorf- Nutrition and Food Service

“The ‘Chopped Challenge’ complements the Nutrition and Food Service cafeteria manager training by adding the opportunity to freshen up culinary skills, review food safety expectations, and create new ideas for the future of Katy ISD menus,” says Pittenger.

Katy ISD cafeterias will welcome back students this Wednesday.

“Their smiling faces is what bring us back each day,” says Todd.

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