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Celebrity chef cooks, teaches at Frontier in fish product promotion

HAMBURG — Frontier Central High School students, staff and administrators got an up-close and personal view of the talents of celebrity chef Marco Suarez on Nov. 13. He played a role in helping to promote the district’s new, healthy fish product on the school’s lunch menu.

Suarez, a Boston-area chef who has been featured on the Food Network’s reality series “Chopped,” was present behind the serving lines at Frontier High School, appearing in three of the four regularly scheduled lunches. He also taught two classes in the newly constructed home economic room, with a cooking demonstration of two large fresh salmon for students’ viewing.

Pupils from the home and careers department, as well as study halls and other available venues, were invited to attend.

The fish was described by district Food Service Director Sue Birmingham as fillet breaded with a crunchy sweet potato coating. Birmingham added, during the school board’s Nov. 5 meeting, that the Nov. 13 presentation was a prelude to a new fish sandwich’s being offered at Frontier, an initiative that will include a variety of sauces.

This was also a way of promoting fish as a food item in Frontier, according to the longtime food service director. The overall implementation is also part of national school meal nutrition standards spawned by first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign.

“I tried the fish, and I really liked it,” said Birmingham, who participated in a previous taste test of the seafood.

High Liner Foods is described as the leading North American processor and marketer of value-added frozen seafood. It is the originator of the fish product aimed for kindergarten – 12th grade, and health care food service segments. High Liner additionally offered to bring in Suarez as a celebrity chef, in a stated attempt to market and sell fish to district students. Food service staff from each Frontier district building received complimentary aprons, as part of event giveaways.

The fish promotion was described as an ongoing initiative to implement healthy eating for students, accompanying a push for vegetable and whole grain consumption. The health-conscious national effort also includes cutting back on fats and beverages that are high in sugar.

Suarez, the executive chef at the Canary Square Restaurant in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, debuted on “Chopped” in 2011, on the Food Network.

In another matter, the board approved a resolution to abolish a 1.0 full time-equivalent account clerk position in the Frontier Educational Center/business office.

The move followed the accompanying retirement of longtime account clerk-typist Elizabeth Newman, whose departure was announced at the Nov. 5 meeting.

Frontier Central Teacher Association President Laura Haas said, during public comment, that eliminating essential clerical staff positions is detrimental to the functionality of the district, due to existing staff members’ being forced to take on more duties, while not being compensated for doing so.

“Less staff means less productivity,” Haas said, adding that cutting a laborer position at a district elementary school from eight to four hours has adversely affected cleanliness capability at that location.

School Board President Janet Plarr said the elimination of the account clerk position was discussed, during budget planning for 2013 – 2014.

School Business Manager Richard Calipari praised the work of Newman, who had served in her district capacity since 1993.

In other matters:
– Calipari discussed completed capital project updates, including an excavation behind Frontier High School. Media center work has moved along as scheduled, including window installments; the bus garage security project is moving forward and a review of high school auditorium work revealed that installed lights are too heavy and need adjustment. A study regarding rigging in regard to the stage will take place.

– Interim district Superintendent Paul Hashem said that, of the 65.5 district aides, 61.5 are mandated for students with disabilities, while two are funded through prekindergarten grants and two paid for through the general fund, as print shop aides.

A New York state evaluation determined Frontier as having a 100 percent composite rating in the aide area.

The next meeting of the Frontier Central School Board will take place at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 19 at the Frontier Education Center Boardroom, located at 5120 Orchard Ave. in Hamburg.
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