Q & A: New Columbia school chef shares fondness for foods

Tuesday, November 15, 2011 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 8:26 a.m. CST, Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Brad Faith, chef of Nutrition Services for Columbia Public Schools, takes out two chimichangas from the oven Tuesday at Rock Bridge High School kitchen. Faith experimented baking the chimichangas for the first time. Before baking them, he brushed one with vegetable oil to see the difference between the two.

COLUMBIA — Meet Bradley Faith. He goes by Brad, and he’s the newly hired chef at Columbia Public Schools.

Faith will plan and test new recipes for lunch at elementary and middle schools this year as part of a goal to bring healthier food to students and transition lunch menus to the new USDA guidelines. The district's Nutrition Services Department has already ordered more raw and less-processed foods in place of past ready-to-go commodities.


Related Media

Related Articles

But the team wants a chef's vision.

Also, schools need someone to coordinate catering from central kitchens to schools with small kitchens. Nutrition Services wants the new dining program designed and running efficiently by spring 2014.

Faith attended culinary school at the Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts in Pittsburgh, which is now part of Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts. He has worked various chef jobs, including at Kirk’s Bistro, in Portland, Ore., in 1998 and off-and-on executive chef at The Upper Crust in Columbia from 2003 to 2008. Until last month, he worked as executive chef at the Columbia Country Club.

Faith moved to Columbia in 2003 with his wife, Dena Faith. They have two children, Isaac, 5, and Anabelle, 2.

After starting work Oct. 27, he sat down to talk a little about his life and lunch plans for the public schools. His answers in some cases are drawn from two interviews.

Q: How is cooking for kids different from cooking for adults?

Kids are more picky. Kids know what they like. Introducing new foods to them has to be fun for them. Kids like to make a lot of decisions on their own terms. It’s about getting them involved and letting them choose. I find that kids who are involved in making their own foods tend to be more happy to eat them. Since we’re going to be cooking more scratch foods, fresh foods, foods they maybe haven’t eaten before, we’re going to have to get them involved.

Q: How will you get children involved?

My intention is to visit each school at lunch period and sit down with the kids and pick their brains. It’s important for me to talk to the people who eat my foods. Kids will be more open to eating new foods if they feel their opinion matters. I love kids, and I think it will mean a lot to parents too to learn that the person who is going to provide breakfast and lunch isn’t too proud to sit down with (their kids) and ask what they want. That’s the most important to me, to give kids what they want while bringing them healthier foods. As a parent I understand the burden that parents go through in packing lunches or buying food at school.

Once we get rolling, I will try and offer cooking classes for kids and their parents. Also, if it can be done, we will try to start gardens at the schools so kids can become more familiar with how their food grows and what is involved with that. Field trips to local farms may occur as well. These are ideas that are in my head. It just depends on how much the public supports them and who's willing to support them.

Q: What do you like to eat with your family?

The best foods to eat are the foods my kids will eat hassle-free. Fortunately, my kids love veggies. Spaghetti always goes well. My kids enjoy slurping the long noodles, imitating their father per se.

My kids will eat well if it’s fun. As a parent, I have the responsibility to make sure my kids eat well and not just what they want. Fortunately, my kids have eclectic taste in food. Growing up, I was never familiar with feta cheese, Kalamata olives or even Asian foods. Columbia has a much more diverse community than my rural northwestern Pennsylvania town had, so they have much more exposure to different foods than I had.

Q: Did you cook when you were a kid?

I was always helping with dinner, whether it was mashing potatoes, making gravy, preparing salads or even baking and icing cake. It reached a point where my role became less of a secondary and more of a primary role. I didn’t have a problem going out to cook the steaks. Not that I didn’t like my mom’s cooking, but my mom and dad were medium-well cookers, and I liked medium rare. I essentially volunteered to do the cooking to suit my own tastes.

Q: How did you decide to become a chef?

I always leaned toward your hands-on type of work. (Post high school) I wanted to get in and get on with it. I did my two years of time (in culinary school). I didn’t want to be shackled with a bunch of school loans and stuff like that. But I did like cooking. I watched a lot of cooking shows on TV. There was a guy named Pasquale with a floppy red hat and a white necktie. He loved to sing while he cooked. I don't sing opera, but I do like to sing out loud. I have a penchant for singing a song and changing the lyrics. Let's say there's a cook who's in a bad mood — I'll sing them a song and cheer them up.

Another guy was Graham Kerr. Yan Can Cook — that was with Martin Yan. He pretty much covered all Chinese dishes. This was before the Food Network.

Q: What is your favorite dessert?

I think a lot of people’s favorites things would trace back to something they had in their childhoods, and I think I would have to say strawberry shortcake. My mom used to make strawberry shortcake, and there’s nothing better than fresh crushed strawberries, warm short cake and cool whipped cream.

Like what you see here? Become a member.

Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


Joy Mayer November 15, 2011 | 11:41 a.m.

I'm the parent of elementary school boys, and this story is especially interesting to me. When I let my kindergartener buy his lunch, he comes home saying how awesome it was to eat pizza, pudding and chocolate milk for lunch.

One question I find myself asking other parents a lot is how healthy food can be made more appealing to kids? My kids eat pretty well at home, but if left to their own devices, they pick junk.

What advice would you guys have for the schools, and for this chef, who sure has his work cut out for him?

Joy Mayer,
Columbia Missourian

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro November 15, 2011 | 3:02 p.m.

("It may not seem like a huge difference, but over time that extra sugar and calories add up, especially when they're consumed daily at school and as part of an already too-sugary diet, explains Joy Bauer, RD, nutrition and health expert for the Today show and Everyday Health.")
Unhealthy junk foods:

("Children and adolescents need sufficient nutritious food to grow and develop normally
Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods
Children and adolescents should be encouraged to:
Eat plenty of vegetables, legumes and fruit
Eat plenty of cereals (including breads, rice, pasta and noodles), preferably wholegrain
Include lean meat, fish, poultry and/or alternatives
Include milks, yogurts, cheese and/or alternatives
- Reduced fat milks are not suitable for young children under 2 years, because of their
high energy needs, but reduced fat varieties should be encouraged for older children
and adolescents
Choose water as a drink
-and care should be taken to:
Limit saturated fat and moderate total fat intake
- Low fat diets are not suitable for infants
Choose foods low in salt
Consume only moderate amounts of sugars and foods containing added sugars.
Care for your child’s food: prepare and store it safely
These guidelines are not in order of importance
Each one deals with an issue that is key to optimal health. Two relate to the quantity and
quality of the food we eat—getting the right types of food in the right amounts to meet the
body’s nutrient needs and to reduce the risk of chronic disease. Given the epidemic of obesity
we are currently experiencing...stresses the need to be vigilant
about food safety,")

Promoting healthy eating for children

(Report Comment)
Susan Schommer November 15, 2011 | 4:45 p.m.

I also have elementary age boys and I remember a program 2 years ago where they visited the elementary schools and introduced the children to one fruit or vegetable each visit. It was always interesting to go to a salad bar and find out that my son now liked honeydew or some other food that we don't eat at home because the adults don't like it so we never buy it. Kids like making shapes and figures with food so even having an art unit where they could try a variety of fruits and vegetables that they create with first. Main dishes might be a little harder, maybe a taste test challenge- let them get small amounts of 2 entrees instead of 1 big one so that they are more willing to try something instead of afraid they won't like it and will be hungry. You could vote on your favorite to get feedback about how they liked it and make it more fun.

(Report Comment)
Joy Mayer November 15, 2011 | 5:34 p.m.

@Sue, those are great suggestions! Thanks. I love the taste test idea, and the voting idea.

Joy Mayer,
Columbia Missourian

(Report Comment)

Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.