Central Kitchen Tour Recap

December 12th, 2017

The process, place and people involved in feeding over 20,000 meals to Vista Unified students every day may well be one of the district’s best-kept secrets. That’s not by design, however, and so in an effort to showcase how WaveCrest Cafe goes about this mammoth, daily task, a group of parents and family members received a behind-the-scenes tour of WaveCrest Cafe’s Central Kitchen on Thursday, November 30th.


The CK, as it’s called, is the space where decisions about food procurement, preparation and delivery are made for Vista USD. Amy Haessly, Nutrition Education & Training Supervisor for WaveCrest Cafe, led the tour through the facility, guiding visitors through the various stations, while explaining the operation and highlights that go into serving Vista’s students.

Our Central Kitchen tour group – making hair nets fashionable!

Sharing that the kitchen staff’s daily start time is 5:00 AM, Mrs. Haessly gave an overview of the process of preparing meals, from the fresh, locally grown ingredients, to the efficient and professional kitchen operation that makes 350 fresh baked pizzas every single day.


“Oh my goodness! The Central Kitchen is a very busy place and looks like a well-oiled machine,” said Alamosa Park Elementary parent Rosalinda Tovar. “We’ve got some amazing people doing amazing work. That was a lot of pizza in there!”


Tour participants were told of the process that Vista’s Colors Gourmet Pizza bakery went through to design a custom white whole grain crust for WaveCrest Cafe. They were also treated to samples of cheese, pepperoni and a new bruschetta pizza that is being served in our schools.

Freshly prepared pizzas, with dough from Colors Gourmet Pizza, and home made sauce and custom toppings, await the commercial grade pizza oven.

But the pizza production was just the start, as guests were guided to see the homemade production of low fat salad dressings, salsa, and roasted meats. They also learned about the extensive Farm To School program to bring locally grown fruits and vegetables to Vista’s schools, including partnerships with local organic farms such as Solutions Farm in Vista and Sage Mountain Farm in Anza.


“One thing I’m impressed with is that Solutions For Change and other organic farms work together with our schools,” said Gail Privetts, whose grandson is a student at Alamosa Park Elementary.  


Continued Mrs. Tovar, “I want to learn more about the Farm to School program, and would love to be more involved. I love the idea of our kids experiencing and understanding where their food comes from.The fact that our kids get to enjoy organic foods as well is definitely a plus and so far from the days of my school lunch options.”

The scent of freshly cut cilantro abounds. Cilantro is just one of the fresh, local produce items used in making our meals.

Tour participants were shown the process of how meals are prepared and then delivered to schools, as well as the logistics involved in sourcing, storing and delivering meals at a clip of 100,000 per week. There was a slight fall chill in the air that seemed far less brisk after a short peek inside the massive drive-in refrigerator and freezer, where some items are kept at near-freezing temperatures.


Of course the lion’s share of the WaveCrest Cafe staff of 150+ people are at school sites, preparing and serving students at 27 Vista USD school sites. Mrs. Haessly explained that many of the staff are parents, grandparents or other family members of Vista USD students, and feeding meals is more than just a job to them, but something deeply personal.


Said Mrs. Tovar, “I loved hearing that so many of the staff are parents.”

After the kitchen tour, participants are treated to a sampling of menu items and discussion of the program.

After the tour, participants were treated to an early lunch that included fresh, organic salad with homemade dressings, WaveCrest Pizza, chips and homemade salsa, and another new menu favorite, chicken tamales from Del Real Foods. The only menu item at the lunch that differed from the menus of each school was the infused water that Central Kitchen Coordinator Dania Velarde made special for the tour group.


In closing, Mrs. Tovar said that she’d encourage anyone to take a tour in the future. “It is a privilege to be able to go beyond the doors to see where the magic happens. To walk by the cutting boards, smell the cilantro, see the racks upon racks of pizza waiting for the oven, and to know that while we were sleeping, hands were cutting, chopping, and bustling since 5am so that our kids could fill their bellies with diverse, local, organic food choices.”


The next Central Kitchen tour will happen on Thursday, January 25, 2018 from 9:00 – 10:30 AM. Please RSVP for a head count and food preparation by clicking here.

A look at the meal prepared for the tour, including fresh salad and home made dressings, bruschetta pizza, chicken tamales, chips and home made salsa, and fruit-infused water.