Last updated on November 19, 2020
Throughout the spring trimester, which was newly online, students and faculty alike were missing our amazing lunches from the Northwest School kitchen. Lunch is one of the main programs that touch every individual in the school; students, faculty administrators, and even visitors of NWS. It has always been a way to build relationships within the community and take a break from working hard to appreciate delicious food. Because of the big impact of COVID-19 and students’ education being transferred online, the traditional Northwest school lunches are not being provided. This fall, The Northwest dining program came up with a remote learning dining system that feeds all families of the Northwest community.
The House Specialty Remote Dining Program includes prepared dinners for every Northwest school family. These dinners are a really important way to stay connected to the community. Going to pick up your dinners and getting a few seconds to have a brief encounter and catch up with some of the kitchen staff is a good way to check in with everyone at NWS. This remote dining program also allows our families to get to experience some of the food that we have at Northwest for lunch.
Tony Muller has been working as a chef in Northwest’s dining program for eleven years! He told me some of the ways they start preparing the dinners. Said Tony, “We make salad dressing and fill containers with cheese a couple of days ahead and then make sauces, cook meat, and cool everything down the day before packing because everything must be cooled down to pack. We package everything first thing in the morning, after that we prep and cook to make sure we have enough prepared food to pack for the next morning.” After all of the meals are prepared, they are picked up by members of the Northwest community. The delicious meals are either picked up at school or in a neighborhood zone. Right now there are six neighborhood zones: Queen Anne, University District, West Seattle, Crowne Hill, Columbia City, and Bellevue. If families choose to pick up at school, they come to a walkup window at Northwest. If families choose to pick up in a neighborhood zone, they meet a Northwest School bus at a designated location each week.
I got the opportunity to talk with Bethany Fong, director of Dining Services at Northwest. Bethany is in charge of the entire dining program, which includes the lunch program that feeds 500-600 people a day (during normal school), feeding our 50-55 dorm students who live on campus and catering for special events at school. There was a ton of brainstorming throughout the Northwest community trying to come up with ideas for the dining program this Fall. Bethany described one of the possible ideas saying, “We considered many ideas for this program, including a make-your-own-meal kit, a weekly seasonal produce box, and daily to-go lunches. We landed on the current version after multiple meetings with administrators and the dining team because we thought this was the plan that best represented the dining program, was logistically doable, and most useful to families.”
Bethany went on, mentioning that she was also really inspired by the restaurant Canalis. “Canlis is one of the top fine dining restaurants in Seattle and when Covid hit they immediately pivoted their restaurant to meet the needs of their customers during a pandemic. Instead of doing fine dining, they have done meals that folks heat at home (just like us!); CSA boxes, which are boxes filled with local produce, meat, eggs, and other ingredients; an outdoor crab shack; drive-in movies in the parking lot; and online cooking classes. As I watched Canlis change their operation throughout the spring and summer and do it with an open mind, creativity, and humor I thought…we can do that too!”
Bethany went on to tell me how shifting to a remote dining program allowed Northwest to retain all of our dining faculty. Bethany said, “The food and service industry has suffered tremendously during Covid, but luckily NWS decided that retaining the dining faculty in order to continue a dining program was central to the school’s mission. Continuously operating the kitchen will also allow us to transition more easily once we are able to return to campus.”
We are so thankful for our hardworking Kitchen and Dining staff. Go try out The House Specialty Remote Dining Program and get amazing dinners for you and your family!