Princeton Day School’s Flik Dining Service was recently recertified as a Four Star Green Restaurant, maintaining its stature in the vanguard of school food service offerings across the country! In a recent conversation with Flik Director Brian Mochnal and Liz Cutler, Sustainability Coordinator, they explained the process and the partnership, that brought us to four stars.
“It took us seven years to achieve our initial four-star certification,” Cutler says, “and at the time, we were only the fourth school in the country to get there.” The commitment to sustainability is evident throughout the campus and school experience: from largely noticeable areas like the garden to much smaller pieces of the puzzle that may go unnoticed. Cutler remembers, “Having this certification held us to a certain standard and made us examine even the little things that we did. When we first started the four-star certification process, we moved the silverware table from the front of the lunch line to the exit. That may seem very small, but what happened is that students and faculty took only the silverware and napkins they needed as opposed to taking every utensil and a huge stack of napkins. This helped us reduce our wash water by about 30%!”
Throughout this conversation, Cutler continually returned to one word to describe the success of the Flik Dining and PDS relationship: partnership. “The partnership between PDS and Flik has been a really good model for how to get things done. People have to be open and willing to work together, when it happens - then you can make a difference. Every year, Chef Brian and I are collaborating about how to make the program more sustainable.”
Chef Brian Mochnal, Director of Flik Dining Services, says that the belief in solid partnerships is how this story began: “Flik Independent School Dining partnered with Green Restaurant Association (a non-profit organization originally developed for restaurants) because Flik knew that just serving great food was not enough. Serving great food in a more sustainable way would be the future of food service. GRA created a list of requirements and expectations that were suitable for schools and, in classic PDS fashion, many of those requirements were met right off the bat.
“The three-star certification was almost instantly awarded to us because of many of the practices that were already in place, such as not offering disposable silverware and providing plant-based options. When it was time to shoot for the fourth star, that’s when Liz’s partnership as sustainability coordinator really ramped up,” he explains.
In order to obtain a four-star rating from Green Restaurant, a number of factors are considered beyond the caliber of the food and how it is served, including many requirements that did not directly interact with the dining hall. Chef Brian recalls, “We had to look at things like what kind of light bulbs we were using and knowing the details about the School’s rain run-off!”
During the journey to becoming certified, managing the food side of things did come with its challenges. Chef Brian explains, “It was really challenging to continually hit the mark with purchasing local food. We were already purchasing a lot of our food from local suppliers, but the standard for a four star green restaurant was much higher.” Thankfully, Common Market in Philadelphia would answer the call for a regional distributor with a variety of options. “The great thing is that their company works with 150 farms within a 60 mile radius. From Philadelphia, 60 miles covers a lot of different regions,” he continues.
Cutler and Chef Brian are both eager to give each other the credit for the success of the program. As Chef Brian says, “Flik Dining started the certification process, and Liz knew how important it was for PDS to be the model school, like it already was in so many other areas, for sustainability.”
To learn more about the requirements for obtaining four stars with Green Restaurant, check out where we earned our “GreenPoints!”