Noma Head Chef Leaves to Cook for American Kids

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Thirty-one-year-old Daniel Giusti is leaving his position as head chef at Noma, the Copenhagen restaurant repeatedly voted best in the world, whose tasting menu costs over $400 per person, to cook meals that cost $3.07 for people who don’t give a shit about plating or wine pairing and would probably rather have Little Caesar’s and chocolate milk.

Why? He wants to change the world. That’s all. No big deal.

He left to focus on improving the dreary food scene in America’s public schools. His company is called Brigaid, and it “aims to provide a new model for school food in the U.S.,” according to the company’s press release. That vision includes chefs in school kitchens connecting kids with the food they are eating. It also includes improving the most neglected school kitchens to the point where they can actually cook food rather than simply deep-fry, bake or microwave it to an appropriate temperature.

Giusti also wants to “give professional chefs a viable and appealing way to commit their careers to that effort in a full time capacity,” he says in a press release. For culinary school students or grads, that sure beats chopping onions in a supermarket deli for $12 an hour.

One model for this is Revolution Foods, based in Oakland. Their company has been, in the world of improving school lunches, wildly successful, becoming a $100 million-revenue business serving 200,000 kids annually in 1,000 schools, most of which are public.

The benefits to feeding kids good food are many; tempering the growth of childhood obesity and improved test scores are measurables for the concept’s success. But the most logical argument can be boiled down to “what you put in equates to what you put out.” Good fuel means good performance.

Giusti has support from his former boss, Noma chef-patron René Redzepi, and the attention of foodies around the world. His target to have a pilot program in place is fall 2016, and if anyone can do it, it’s an ambitious chef like Giusti who thrives on innovation. “Noma is a restaurant that has been changing the way many people look at food for the past decade,” he says. “I hope to bring some of that same ambition into the world of school food.”