Let’s Fix Work Episode 95:
What’s up with school lunches? How can we make them better? You may be asking yourself, “What do school lunches have to do with fixing work, Laurie?” Well, in today’s episode, you’ll learn how one company is working to bring better food and nutrition to schools and how these efforts led the founder to fix work for himself.
In this episode I am joined by Dan Giusti, Founder and CEO of Brigaid. He is the former Head Chef of Noma (the best restaurant in the world) and who now works in school kitchens. Since 2016, Brigaid has collaborated with K through 12 school districts to support and elevate the quality of their child nutrition programs. Brigaid has also expanded its reach to encompass institutional foodservice operations of all kinds. Their mission is to change what is expected of food served in these public spaces.
Dan left his job at Noma to pursue a passion to cook for people who really need and deserve high-quality food. Dan is the essence of someone who has fixed work by trying to align himself with his values and to go out into the market and make magic happen.
In this episode you’ll hear:
- Why Dan decided to leave Noma and use his chef skills in conjunction with his current passion as Founder of Brigaid.
- How Dan and the Brigaid chefs are making school lunches better.
- Some of the unique challenges Brigaid faces partnering with and working within institutionalized kitchens and settings.
- Life and leadership lessons from the kitchen, some of what Dan has learned and has taken with him as a leader of Brigaid.
- How Dan and his team measure their work’s success.
- All about the food Brigaid chefs are making for school lunches and some of the items Dan decided to take off school menus including kale chips, ambitious meatloaves, and sandwiches. Dan says, “You can make a sandwich really well and take your time to make it nice and presented properly and cut it well.” […] “I’m proud that when we make sandwiches, they look really great.”
- Dan’s plans for expanding his mission and how Brigaid is ready to apply what they’ve learned beyond school districts.
WHY DID DAN DECIDE TO LEAVE HIS HEAD CHEF POSITION AT NOMA AND CREATE BRIGAID?
Dan worked in the restaurant industry from the ages of 18-30. He wanted to see how high he could climb in this industry. Ultimately this led him to become the Head Chef at Noma located in Copenhagen, Denmark. This achievement was a turning point for him. He finally had the confidence to contemplate and consider “Okay, what am I going to do next?” He knew what he wanted to feed people but he wasn’t sure yet what this meant.
Then he stumbled upon an article about school food. He realized the structure was already there with kitchen staff, kitchens, and locations. And of course, they’re making food every day but the food wasn’t very good. Schools are typically catering to populations that have no choice as to what they’re going to eat and the menus are not always desirable. It was at this moment the idea of Brigaid began. In the beginning, all he knew was he was going to start a for-profit business and figure out a way to help schools (and other institutions) improve their food for the population they serve.
WHAT LESSONS HAVE DAN AND THE BRIGAID CHEFS LEARNED WHILE WORKING TO MAKE SCHOOL LUNCHES BETTER?
First and foremost, there are pockets of organizations and people making school lunches and the lunch experience very well, which Dan makes clear during our conversation together. Some lessons included:
- Understanding who you are serving. Learning to recognize school lunches are for the kids in school was an eye-opening lesson for Dan and his team. You should be doing the absolute best that you can with what you have at any given moment and you need to keep getting better.
- Be willing to stay the course, understand the parameters they must work within, and persevere. The biggest problem with school food is getting food the children are going to enjoy because it’s so challenging in terms of feeding children. Additional challenges include: working within a school bureaucracy, working within nutritional guidelines, and working with a very low budget that may feel like it beats you down. What happens is you end up with a group of leaders, some of which can persevere through this, do it, and make it happen.
DRAWING FROM DAN’S EXPERIENCE AT NOMA, WHAT HAD THE BIGGEST IMPACT THAT ENCOURAGES HIM WHILE WORKING AT BRIGAID?
Dan explained, “One thing I truly do take away from my experience at Noma has nothing to do with the food. Being there opened my eyes to what I was personally capable of, that kind of also has driven me to want to continuously do better and find ways to make more impact. Every day at Noma had to be a perfect day. It was what was expected of you. And it goes hand-in-hand with this idea now. You want to get better and that’s a very difficult place to be every day. You’re not really happy with what’s going on. But you can find a few bright spots and you can find just enough to keep you motivated.”
Resources from this episode:
Brigaid on Instagram
Dan on Instagram
Dan Giusti on Linkedin
Noma – Copenhagen
070: Taking Risks and Saying Yes with Jeff Gordinier
Laurie on Instagram
Laurie on LinkedIn
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Work with Laurie