Local Produce, Apsiring Chefs: Spotlight on Cooking up Change Sponsor Cristina Foods

October 29, 2012

Here at HSC, we love hearing about great farm-to-school programs — including the sizeable farm-to-school program that serves Chicago Public Schools (CPS) here in our own backyard. That's why we're thrilled that this year's group of generous sponsors for Cooking up Change includes Cristina Foods, a distribution partner of Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality, the company that provides food service to CPS. Cristina Foods provides produce — including locally-grown fruits and vegetables — for school meals in Chicago Public Schools, and the company has been a vital part of the expansion of the farm-to-school program in CPS. In fact, last year, CPS served more than $2 million worth of local produce in school meals. (You can read more about the CPS farm to school program here.)

Cesar Dovalina, president of Cristina Foods, says that Cooking up Change “is really like being in the restaurant business. It's fast-paced, you have your customers right there, and you're trying to please them. . . you've got to work on service and presentation.” Cristina Foods works closely with the restaurant industry, and so Dovalina muses, “maybe they'll be customers of mine someday.”

He adds, “It's also a big lesson in money management. The restrictions are really the thing of it. You get your list of ingredients and prices, and it's like — hey, make something out of this.”

He gives a tip of the hat to Chartwells-Thompson for pushing vendors such as Cristina Foods to source locally. He says that the company is excited about all the innovations in CPS foods — particularly the chicken raised without antibiotics on Amish farms in Indiana. (So are we!) 

Dovalina also says that he's very glad to see culinary programs in CPS schools. He says: “Chicago is really the restaurant capital, more and more. These kids will be out in that world someday. And they'll be able to compete.”

HSC believes in farm-to-school, and Cristina Foods believes in Cooking up Change! It's a great synergy. Thanks to Cesar Dovalina for speaking with us!

Plus: Learn more about Cooking up Change and purchase tickets for the November 9 flagship Chicago cooking contest and benefit online at www.cookingupchange.org.