School Nutrition Education Program
Cultivating Positive Change
USDA Professional Standards Code 2640/3450/3510/3520/4120
Bart Christian, who is a nationally recognized speaker and the school nutrition industry.
Mr. Kern Halls, Ingenius Culinary Concepts
Tell me how you got started in the food service business.
Since I was five years old, I can remember with my aunt and my mom, I was literally with a chair. I have a stove and I’m from the Caribbean originally. So, I was just like sitting there over the stove and just helping them make food and I was always in the kitchen and I loved it.
• I love cooking and I’ve always been entrepreneur. So, like literally by the time I was seven or eight,
I was washing cars and things like that and just trying to make extra money and try and do things.
• And by 13, I had a long business, but I always came back to food. I always did. So then when I went to the military, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.
• Then I kind of waited and I became a culinary specialist in the military. I just totally immerse myself in that food and just your food and beverage.
• From there, I went to culinary school, when I was in the military, then come and work at Walt Disney World, of course, that was so huge. We’re working at Pecos book cafe and Walt Disney world was so huge because it was probably the second business pro busiest restaurant at Walt Disney world altogether, and be with that data probably did about $18 or $20 million in sales.
• We’re talking about burgers, fries and wraps like all day long then like after I left work, I ain’t eat burgers for years after I left this forever, but it was so instrumental just working with food and beverage and especially at Walt Disney World with was just imaginers and the creativity.
• So that really helped me spur getting into ingenious, color concepts, sustaining food, and
beverage. Tell me a little bit more about your time at Disney and the military and what can school nutrition professionals learn from the work culture and the work? I guessthe motivation and the drive that’s kind of put into you in the military.
Yeah. The great thing about it growing up, I had a great work ethic going into a military, so we’re people see the perfectionist. I want to make sure that everything is right. We always exceed everyone’s expectations in anything that I do no matter what. When I went to the military, again, you see me expectations, I went to culinary school, I finished first in my class, so I got accelerated advancement. I was at advanced early.
• One of the things that I learned really quick is that when I have this 19-year-old kid, there are leading people that have been in the military, 10-15 years more than I have, and now I got to lead this ship of 4,000 people. One ship I was on Netherland was two 50 and it taught me a lot about discipline, but also just making sure that fear there’s not an option.
• In the military, were sworn to protect the country from enemies, foreign and domestic. When
you’re overseas or wherever you at, you’re making sure that you can’t fail because in a day we’re protecting our nation as a whole. So, we can’t have any lackadaisical efforts, we have to make sure you take care of your ship mate, next to you. Or we are also stationed to have Marines on our ship where we all work together as the ball to make sure that we were successful. No matter where we’re from, what we did, we always had a mission. We took care of our, our mission and that’s what we did in the military. So, it taught me a lot of, even more discipline in the military.
• Then transition to Disney world, it’s a little bit more different. I had a learning curve. Because in military, you follow your last order. It’s like black and white, no questions asked. Then you go into the corporate world of Walt Disney World, sprinkle some pixie dusts, everything is happy flowers. You’re trying to make sure that all these people are doing their jobs correctly to execute, but it’s the same thing at Walt Disney World, it’s like you have to execute like there is no excuses.
• I take all of those different experiences. Now put that into school, food service, when I go to a client or wherever it is, I give it 110% to make sure that failure is not an option. So that student that didn’t have a meal for that on Friday and come back on Monday.
• They don’t want to hear that the truck ran out of food or the ovens broken. Figure it out, you got to feed that student come Monday morning. Come hell or high water, excuse my friends. You have to feed that student. So, I take that same passion with me every single day, when I worked for a genius coloring concepts.
What’s one of your favorite projects to work on?
I love working on, well, number one, I would say talking to students, because I love doing the focus groups because I hear so much. So, I’ll give you a quick example.
• Some years ago, I was doing a focus group with students, and I really found out before like the Instagram, Snapchat, all that stuff came out. I already knew when students were fleeing on
Facebook years ago, literally a year and a half before it even happened just by talking to the
students, but I would say with talking to the students.
• Tie that is doing cafeteria makeovers, because I love taking something that might be just a walls or people say like, I don’t know how this is going to look, and you going there to do graphic design, you do a painting and you put new chairs and seating and the students are looking like, oh my gosh, this is a totally different area.
• Participation goes up, like you’re coming from math class science class, and now you’re looking to Warsaw and now you’re going to Warsaw in an environment that that’s really friendly. Just use services great, food is great, and it just makes it a good time really to go hang out at lunch.
So those are couple of things that I really enjoy doing.
Would you say that that’s one of the most notable things that is a result of what you do and just the environment change?
Yes. I definitely think environment change because we do so many school make-overs. We partner with manufacturers and we do the tables, we do the graphic designs, we do all those things out there. Once we get them all done and inside of the cafeteria, not only the students really like it, but then I find out that the staff likes it and then the superintendent sees it. Then they started having meetings in the cafeteria. We did a large project out in Oklahoma City.
That was huge, two high schools. It was literally from a floor up and it was a great project we did with Kevin Ponce and Shaun Hall out there.
What are some things that districts can take away from what you did at orange county and applied to this upcoming school year and maybe the next year, once we do start doing, the cafeteria, eating again?
• First thing, get out the office. Sometimes a lot of directors and personnel they’re in the office, they’re bogged down. They let their emails and let all the work, bog them down. They never truly get a chance to go into the field and see the sites and really just have lunch or talk to the students out there.
• Some of the successes that when I was working in a school district is that talking to the students,
like I knew a lot of students literally by their first name, even with 23 high schools.
• I had groups of students that I would talk to and interact with them. So, talking to the students
and knowing them, talking to the staff and knowing the staff as well.
• I know that was kind of hard for me because believe it or not, I work in orange county with 200 something schools, like I was just focused on high school, I never got a chance to go to all the middle schools and elementary schools, but we just build a rapport.
• Also, with that kind of like the military, where we had training and also Walt Disney World
professional development is so huge. I can’t say that enough that, every month I would make my
managers go through some kind of one-hour professional development and building blocks.
• This is before the CEOs, I made sure that our managers, what we did is that I put them through professional development that would have built them up themselves because a lot of the
managers, they had like low self-esteem of themselves and thinking that they were basically kind of thrown to the side, it was a school then a school food service.
• Once I build out the professional development and I turn them loose. I told him, don’t call me unless you got a problem, because I’m saying like, you’re the manager at school. You know, this better than I do.
• I didn’t want to hear about the school. I just want to hear about themselves. I want to make sure that they were empowered and they did a lot of good things like that. So, I would definitely professional development get out there in the schools and talk to the students, build a rapport. I made sure I knew all my principals, the AP’s and their staff as well. I’m a big person on giving.
• I would just keep thank you cards around me. If I saw somebody doing something good, I write a thank you card and give it to the staff member. That’s more than a staff, whatever it is like, thank you, I know you, and I would just try to recognize people for doing some great things in all the time.
So those are some of my strategies that I’ve used, and I think that different writers can use as well. In your opinion, what’s the most important takeaway that school nutrition professionals should pay close attention to?
It’s so funny because it’s nothing new for me. When I worked at Walt Disney world, here’s required, we had a whole diversity department, and if you had four managers in a restaurant, everyone had to get a chance of basically being charged of diversity each month.
• Talking about diversity, I definitely think it’s a conversation where number one, you need listen. I can’t tell you how you feel, and you say no, once you shouldn’t feel that way. No, I can’t tell you how you feel. I think you have to listen to what people are saying and just have honest and open conversations.
• I think that sometimes we just try to be too “PC” and we don’t have honest conversations.
• With diversity it’s all different because a lot of times people get offended by things, but you have different cultures. It’s just like me living in the south. It’s a totally different culture than living up north or in California. When I travel these different places, I have to know how to navigate that culture.
• So that’s why diversity and just inclusion is so important to make sure we understand it. Don’t take it as the person dislikes you. It’s just, maybe they just have a different opinion on what’s going on. Going into this upcoming school year, what advice would you give school nutrition professionals? They might be feeling discouraged or lost due to some of the things that are happening in the world with the pandemic. What advice would you give to them?
I’m a person also, I don’t watch the news, especially in the morning to get my day started.
• So cut the TV off, read or listen to something positive, and just move forward. So, the thing about this yet it’s a really bad situation, but if you’re alive and still pushing through, we’re going to open, like you still have a breath of fresh air. You can go ahead and try to see how can you talk to your neighbor in school district, how can I call somebody and see, like, what are you doing and what your plan is and how do you merge that plan together to be successful in your school district.
• So basically, we got to get schools back open. They’re going open sooner or later, so you better have a plan, because you don’t want to open those doors, then you don’t have a plan together.
• The advice I would give them, sit down with your team and say, let’s think of realistically, and that’s the great thing about having different points of view. Let’s write down a blueprint of say, okay, what’s going to be your phase one, your phase two, your phase three.
• If the second wave happens. Here’s what we’re going to do in case those emergencies. I made
sure that this happened, this happened.
• I want to encourage them to really come up with a strategic plan. And this is how you move
forward. And this is how you’re going to have to be able to pivot during the year, just in case anything happens.
• I would say the silver lining in cloud with this pandemic is that we’ve figured out how to do a lot of stuff. And most importantly, us as human beings we’ve figured out what’s important.
• Spending time with your family, make sure you’re safe has become a top priority for people and biggest show you’re safe.
• So now when you go back to school, get a mission of these students are safe because those
students that don’t have access to these meals. That’s got to be a top priority. I’m fortunate
enough that my kids don’t have to worry about that. I had free lunch growing up. I didn’t have all the amenities that my sons have.
Is there anything that you’d like to leave our guests with before wrap things up?
I just want to say thank you all for having me on the show. I’m really flattered, thank you so much. I’m really humble to be here.
If anybody wants to get in touch with us, our website is www.ingeniouscc.com. Our social media handles are at ingenious CC. You can reach out to me any instances in time that you want to. We answered a lot of questions, like we don’t charge you for them. Like you have any questions, but the one thing I would leave if you’re interested in doing some redesign your cafeteria, you just want to talk to the students to get some answers or just see how we can feed students better. Please reach out to us and kind of go from there. I want to make sure that even though in spite of this pandemic, we’re going to get through this.
We’ve been through a World War, we’ve been through great depressions and as a country, we’re just great, and so we’ll get through this together and not separate, but get through this together. As long as we keep the reach out to each other, give each other a big hug, with your face masks, go on though. But you know, and, and we’ll, we’ll keep it going. Thank you for the opportunity and again, congratulations and good luck all school food service professionals, when y’all get back into your schools and as the industry, and as well as the directors, narrow-body on the front lines.