Anna Mazzaro Spices Up Food in Escondido
At the age of six, Anna Mazzaro found her passion for cooking while preparing dinner for her two younger brothers in her home country of Italy. As a child, Anna enjoyed experimenting with all types of ingredients, while surprising her supportive parents with full course meals. Food was a way for Anna to bring her family together. “For my family, it was very important for us to have one meal together. It was an opportunity for us to be together, gathered around food, as a family,” Anna recalled.
Anna has been working for the Escondido Union School District (EUSD) for 11 years now, and as a Production Manager for the last four. In her role within Child Nutrition Services (CNS), Anna leads recipe development, meal preparation, and dispatch logistics for all 23 EUSD school sites. She starts this process with an idea followed by experimenting with different ingredients as she develops recipe variations. “As a manager, I love the creative aspect of developing recipes.”
After recipe development, Anna conducts taste tests to receive feedback on her latest creation. Food samples are then sent out to four different school sites for input from students. Once the recipe has been finalized and taste-tested with both staff and students, the final step in this process is laying out the logistics for cooking and meal dispatch.
Within EUSD, the CNS team also offers students plenty of opportunities to try plant-based options for lunch. In fact, the district provides one plant-based entree option for every meat option on the menu. Some of the students’ favorite meatless options include meatless meat sauce with tofu, bean soy chorizo chili, and sopes with refried beans. Anna believes, “It’s the perfect age for students to learn about the world and healthy food options.”
Along with plant-based menu options, Anna and the CNS team pride themselves on utilizing products from local farmers and growers. Anna has enjoyed working with local farms. “The lettuce and sweet basil that we receive from Sundial Farms has been amazing. We use the lettuce every day in the salad bar and in our wraps.” EUSD also uses the sweet basil in both the meat and meatless sauce. “The sweet basil is so fragrant and beautiful,” remarks Anna, “It has been very successful.”
In addition to the hydroponic lettuce and basil from Sundial Farm, EUSD incorporates beans from Rio Del Rey Heirloom Beans in their popular three-bean-chili. “We love our connections with local farmers, and we try to help them in every way we can.”
When asked about the common misconceptions of today’s school food, Mrs. Mazzaro believes everything starts with education, “Start by going on to the website for your local cafeteria, and check what they have to offer.”
Anna encourages all parents to explore EUSD cafeterias and ask questions. Having open communication with cafeteria managers is also an opportunity to learn about your student’s meal program. “People typically think we only serve pizza, burnt hamburgers, and that our cafeteria ladies are the meanest. We would like to change this perspective, because it is not fair to us, because we work so hard.”
Anna has many memorable stories of working with students, but one that stands out to her was when she was sampling her Tuna Sriracha and Chips dish at Mission Middle School.
After one boy tasted the sample he told Anna, “Oh my gosh, that is the best chicken I’ve ever tasted!” Anna replied, “Sweetheart, this is actually fish! It’s called tuna.” The boy was in disbelief that he had tried fish, and was eager to tell his mother that he wants to eat more tuna from now on. In addition to Anna’s love for kids, she enjoys working with her team and for her CNS Director, who supports her every step of the way.
For more information about EUSD’s Child Nutrition Services Team and Menu Items, click here.
For Anna, the most enjoyable part of her job is working with kids. “The kids are such a different crowd, they are just so honest with me about everything. They’ll tell me if they don’t like something they’ve tasted, and the expressions that they make when they do like something I created, it’s just so rewarding.”