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Chefs to Watch: Gwinnett County Public Schools’ Rachel Petraglia pushes her team to school food excellence

The many challenges posed to K-12 foodservice workers in a normal year were multiplied during the coronavirus pandemic, and it can be tough to keep kids fed, let alone engaged and inspired. Petraglia shows us how she’s doing it.


Chefs to Watch is a series of video interview with onsite chefs who are making their mark with a unique perspective, fascinating food and more. The chefs in this program are standing out with not just culinary skills, but creativity in hospitality as a whole.

As district culinary coordinator, Rachel Petraglia is the mind behind the menus at Gwinnett (Ga.) County Public Schools (GCPS). She is a Chef to Watch because she’s kept the creative fires burning within her team, even as the going got very tough last year and going into this year for all areas of food service.

Petraglia, who got her culinary degree in Miami, also gained an appreciation for the wildly diverse flavors of that city. We talk tropical salads, an ingenious twist on the sloppy Joe, portable foods that win with kids, gourmet hot dogs and why details (like a glossy bun) can make all the difference.

Using a roundtable collaborative approach for menu development and giving managers as much ownership as possible, Petraglia is doing what she’s always done in the kitchen: paid attention and then pivoted in the best—and most delicious—way possible to get kids fed, nourished and feeling great during a scary time.

Meet this Chef to Watch.

Contact Tara at [email protected].

Follow her on Twitter @Tara_Fitzie.

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