Four Chefs Join NCPTA to Reimagine School Meals


North Carolina PTA is pleased to announce the chef line-up for our Reimagining School Meals event from 5:30pm-7:30pm on April 26 at Southern Season in Chapel Hill. Reimagining School Meals is North Carolina PTA’s effort to increase support of school meals, increase understanding of school meal nutrition standards, and to generate new ideas for nutritionally sound, compliant, and delicious school meals. Chef Sean Fowler, Chef Bo Peterson, Chef Regan Stachler, and Chef Jake Wood will be creating delicious and healthy school meals for fifty school meal advocates and parents to taste. Each meal will provide a serving of a healthy protein, a serving of vegetables, a serving of fruit, and a whole grain and will be made available for use in schools across North Carolina.

Chef Sean Fowler of Mandolin in Raleigh has a deep love for made-from-scratch meals and cooking with high quality, seasonal ingredients. While tending his family’s garden, licking spoons in his grandmothers’ kitchens, and hunting and fishing in the fields and streams of the Southeast with his father, he learned the bounty that North Carolina’s farms and waters provide, and their deep connection to the community. After attending culinary school at Johnson & Wales in Colorado, Fowler honed his skills at the legendary 3 Michelin Star Le Bernardin in New York City, and then as a chef at AAA, 5-Diamond Fearrington House Restaurant in Pittsboro, NC – both of whom put a premium on celebrating ingredients at their peak. In 2011, Fowler returned home to debut his own restaurant, where classic technique and North Carolina’s freshest ingredients would be at the center of the plate. Fowler puts a premium on locally sourced ingredients from nearby farms, including from his own Mandolin Farm.

Chef Bo Peterson of Primal in Durham grew up in a small town in Michigan. After spending time in Las Vegas and New York, Peterson has made North Carolina his home. Along with his wife, Jessica, and two sons, Oscar and Magnus. Peterson is interested in giving a different perspective on how school lunches can be made.

Born and raised in Florida, Regan has been working in professional kitchens for over twenty years.  In his early twenties, Regan rapidly worked his way up into leadership positions in several restaurants in Florida. This experience shaped his time in culinary school in NYC, and as he sought to further refine and develop his talent in some of the best restaurants in NYC.  Regan’s resume includes the famed Gramercy Tavern, Osteria del Circo (owned by the Maccioni family of Le Cirque), and Country (Geoffrey Zakarian).  Trained and experienced in the style of European cuisines, after relocating to the Triangle, Regan worked at Piedmont before opening Little Hen in 2012, an acclaimed restaurant which was awarded 4.5 stars by N&O reviewer, Greg Cox.  In 2013, Regan also founded a culinary pop up event concept – ChickenWire; events gather the Triangle’s best chefs to raise funds to benefit not-for-profit organizations. Since closing Little Hen in 2017, Regan founded a prepared foods and catering company – Hull Foods through which he also crafts pasta and is a vendor at local farmers markets.

Chef Jake Wood of 18 Seaboard in Raleigh grew up in Apex, NC and has family in Apex, New Hill, Moncure, Garner, and Winston-Salem. Before becoming the Executive Chef at 18 Seaboard, Wood created the food program and pokè menu at Raleigh Raw and was the head sushi chef at the Cowfish in Raleigh. Wood credits his grandparents, who grew up poor on farms in the country, for his passion for seafood, barbeque, and southern farm-to-table cuisine.

North Carolina PTA President Virginia Jicha: “North Carolina PTA is thrilled to have Chef Sean Fowler, Chef Regan Stachler, Chef Bo Peterson, and Chef Jake Wood applying their unique approaches and flavors to school meals. These chefs share our commitment to ensuring every child has a healthy and delicious meal and they have an important role to play in advocating for strengthening school nutrition programs so that every child is fed, healthy, and ready to learn.”

Statewide 59.82% of children in North Carolina public schools are eligible for free or reduced priced lunches. As of December 2017, 869,954 children ate school lunch in North Carolina. This makes North Carolina the seventh largest school nutrition program in the country.

North Carolina PTA President Virginia Jicha says, “North Carolina has an abundant and rich agricultural industry—it’s our largest industry—but many of our children are food insecure. School meals are a vital tool in ensuring every child is fed and fed well. As the state’s oldest and largest volunteer organization advocating for children, the health and wellness of children has always been one of our most important priorities. I believe we are at a critical point where as a state, we need to discuss investing in school meals. An investment in our school meal programs would not only be great for the health of children, but it has the potential to be great for our economy by supporting local agriculture.”

North Carolina’s traditional public schools are required to participate in the National School Lunch Program but the state provides very little funding for school meals currently. Most school meal funding comes from federal reimbursements and the reimbursement rates for free, paid and reduced-price meals are relatively low. In 2017, preliminary data shows the National School Lunch Program made payments totaling $387,928,245 to North Carolina. Providing adequate state funding for school meals in North Carolina has the potential to make school meals more appealing to children and families and to provide much needed support for our rural areas and farmers.