Chef Bethany Markee and one of her students competing at Santa Barbara's SOL Food Festival

Chef Bethany Markee and one of her students competing at Santa Barbara’s SOL Food Festival


By Claud Mann

School Food Initiative Chef Instructor Bethany Markee signs off on all of her correspondence the same way: “Fresh real food….for children….every day. It’s possible.” For too many on the front lines of school food this sounds like wishful thinking; for Bethany it is an axiom she exemplifies each and every school day. In her three years as Food Service Director for Solvang School, Bethany has created a real world model that proves scratch-cooked cafeteria food, prepared with fresh, local ingredients, can rival food served in any restaurant. Even more impressive is that the kids are eating it up. This is no accident; once meal service begins, Bethany leaves her kitchen and moves from table to table engaging her customers, getting feedback, encouraging them to try unfamiliar foods like squash croutons or kale chips, and –whether they realize it or not—teaching the lifelong value of healthful eating.


Meet the Chef Bethany from Orfalea Foundation on Vimeo.


Knowing Bethany’s dedication, we were not a bit surprised to learn that the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a Washington D.C. based outreach and education organization with over 10,000 doctor members, has recognized Chef Beth with its 2013 Golden Carrot Award. This national honor was established by the PCRM in 2004 to acknowledge school food service operations that inspire students to choose healthier food options, especially fresh fruits, vegetables, and plant based proteins. We hope the success of Bethany’s Viking Café inspires other districts that may be on the fence about making the transition to scratch cooking. Like the chef says, “It’s possible.”

See PCRM’s Golden Carrot Award press release here.

See an ABC news report on Bethany and the Viking Café here.

Visit The Viking Cafe’s Facebook page.

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