The Electricity of Cooking up Change: a Q+A with Trevor Ferguson

October 15, 2014

“Their creativity comes through.”

Cooking up Change Chicago is just around the corner! In preparation, we’re speaking with some of the invaluable leaders who make this program happen every year. Today, we’re featuring Trevor Ferguson, regional vice-president at Aramark. Trevor works closely with Leslie Fowler at Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to deliver breakfast and lunch to more than 400,000 students. His team of dietitians also helps review Cooking up Change recipes, and he provides food for student chefs to use during the competition. Trevor’s leadership ensures that the winning meal is served across the entire CPS district.

1) Why is Cooking up Change important, especially this year?

Cooking up Change gives the students the opportunity to participate in the developmental process of creating healthy, nutritious meals

2) Why do you support Cooking up Change?

I support Cooking up Change because of the opportunity for kids to participate in the process. It’s an outlet for kids. It's a voice of the community. Cooking up Change helps us continue to develop solutions that are healthy and nutritious.

3) How has being involved with Cooking up Change impacted you in your role at Aramark?

It was an eye-opener for me, at last year’s event, to see so many kids active in the process. Cooking up Change represents the importance of providing meals for kids, sometimes their only meals of the day. [Cooking up Change student chefs] participate, and on the back end, the meals are good for the kids. It’s a win-win for the kids and for us.

4) What do you love about Cooking up Change?

I loved the electricity in the air. The kids were genuinely excited to have an opportunity to be part of the process. They genuinely walked into the presentation room and took pride in what they were representing. It was their creation. It was exciting for me to see the pride of students participating in the process. Then, for Chicago, to send kids all the way to D.C. as winners… in a city like Chicago, that went a long way. Outside of the fact that Cooking up Change is good for our menu, and the meals are nutritious, it’s also an opportunity for kids to aspire toward great careers. At Aramark, that’s what we stand for. For Aramark to lead this charge is critical. These kids could be on our team — our culinary team — someday.

5) Why are student voices important?

Kids can speak through different ways. For students in Cooking up Change, they speak through their culinary creation. Their creativity comes through, in what they are able to prepare using the same guidelines that schools have.

It’s the age-old theory that you’re more invested in a process that you’re able to participate in. If you’re able to participate in creating menus, it creates excitement within the school, other kids can get involved, and they see that they have a voice in the food that they eat. That creates buy-in into the meal program. A kid can say, “I can develop a menu that showed up on the serving line.” That’s exciting. You dream it, and then that item you develop can absolutely show up on the menu.

6) When hear the words “Cooking up Change” what do you think of?

I think of pushing the envelope, on the forefront of ideation, invested in ensuring that the process works.

7) How do Cooking up Change students inspire you?

They’re truly engaged, excited and part of the process, and many of them are going on to culinary careers. That’s inspirational; that’s pretty impressive. As a leader here at Aramark, we want to continue supporting causes and initiatives like Cooking up Change, because it does have an impact. Not just on the culinary program but on students’ lives. At Aramark we are part of the community in which we operate. We not only support the program, but we feed kids and support kids.

Thank you, Trevor, for your ongoing support and for sharing your thoughts with us!

Did you know that you can meet Chicago’s student chefs and be part of the action at Cooking up Change Chicago on Thursday, October 30? Click here to purchase tickets or to make a donation.