Monday, May 15, 2000

Oven draws school raves

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

        UNION TOWNSHIP — Biology teacher Phil Preston put away his salami sandwich when he saw the turkey roll Chef Tom Douglas was slicing in the cafeteria at Lakota Freshman School.

        “Usually I'll eat in the cafeteria once a month. I mostly pack my lunch,” Mr. Preston said, while eating his meal. “This is good.”

        Turkey, usually reserved for special meals at school, might become more common in the cafeteria now that a steamer has been replaced by a “combi oven” — one that uses dry heat like a convection oven, moist heat like a steamer, or both.

        “As moisture evaporates, it's put back in,” said Mr. Douglas, who was at the school last Thursday for a training session on how to use the new combi oven bought two weeks earlier for about $14,000.

        “You can take the same food and cook it different ways to make it more appetizing. You can use lesser cuts of meat because (the oven) tenderizes more.”

        This is the third such oven Lakota Schools have bought from Eaton-based Henny Penny Corp. Lakota East and West high schools opened with the ovens installed. As older equipment breaks down in other schools, the combi ovens will replace it, said Treva Whitlock, director of child nutrition for Lakota Schools.

        She added: “This is a new way of cooking. We'd like to get away from pizza and back to more traditional, healthy foods. Kids love turkey. If you look at our deli bar sales, most of the sandwiches asked for are turkey. These ovens will let us do large roasts like beef or pork and they're safer to use and easier to use.”

        Cook Mary Cornett said she likes it because it cooks faster, is more automated and there is far less risk of burns than the older ovens. The oven will allow cooks to shorten cooking times and increase the variety offered for hot meals.

        ""I love it,” Ms. Cornett said.

        Freshman Clint Absher, who opted for a pretzel with melted cheese, said he was going to get the turkey, “but the line was too long. I love turkey.”


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