Lunches By Jacob diversifies lunch program


BP Photo by Katia Surpin

OPTIONS: Caterer Jacob Schwartz has brought in more options to Shalhevet’s lunches on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So far he’s not using the school kitchens, however.

By Lucy Fried, Staff Writer

How can Shalhevet students get the best of both worlds? Enter Jacob Schwartz.

Mr. Schwartz’s company, Lunches By Jacob, has been providing lunch twice a week since Feb. 1, while first semester’s restaurant delivery program is maintained on the other three days.

In addition to food cooked off-site, the new Tuesday-Thursday program offers a fresh salad bar at every meal, responding to complaints that there were not enough healthy options in the first semester program.

“We always try to change things up and make things healthier and give better choices,” said Executive Director Robyn Lewis. “There’s always a protein, a vegetable, and a carb.”

Lunches By Jacob still serves fried food, but always accompanied by steamed vegetables and soup, as well a cold option of tuna or turkey wraps. Restaurant options included French fries, tempura sushi and beef fry burgers.

Mr. Schwartz won’t be using Shalhevet’s new kitchens just yet. During what’s being called a “trial run” for the program, he is preparing the food in advance, hoping to move into the kitchens soon depending on the response from students.

“At this point in time, it’s easier for me and cleaner for everybody,” he said, adding, “If everyone’s happy, then we’ll just take over the kitchen.”

Before moving to Los Angeles in 2010, Mr. Schwartz has worked for some of the biggest kosher catering companies in New York, catering to high profile celebrity clients such as Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and the New York Giants.

“I’ve done some fancy work,” he said. “It’s exciting and a little scary at first, but then after a while they’re just like regular people.”

According to Ms. Muriel Ohana, Assistant to the Head of School, as of March 15, 95 students had signed up for Lunches By Jacob. That compares with 116 for L.A. Burger Bar, 109 students for Jeff’s Gourmet, 107 for Shanghai and 96 for pizza from Nagila.

Ms. Ohana said Lunches By Jacob is now also being offered for daily purchase by students for $8.50, but is limited to the first five people on a first-come, first-served basis. This is not an option on the restaurant delivery days.

On its first day, the change in programs evoked a mixed response from students. Though the cafeteria was chaotic with people moving through, checking off their names and deciding what to serve themselves, items like the tuna and turkey sandwiches on sourdough and whole wheat bread were described as “gourmet” and the vegetable soup as “extremely hot, but so good.”

“I wasn’t sure what to expect because it could really go both ways,” said junior Maayan Waldman while sipping vegetable soup. “It was really good, and hopefully it’ll stay like this for the rest of the semester.”

Senior Micah Gill liked the change.

“It’s a great change,” said Micah, a wrapped tuna sandwich in hand. “It alters my nutrition habits, it alters my diet, and I’m really excited to become a more balanced eater.”

Other students worried they’d miss the first semester plan: five restaurants, one for each day of the week — Schnitzly, Meshuga 4 Sushi, Shanghai, L.A. Burger Bar, and Nagila.

“It feels like there’s not as much variety now,” said freshman Matan Segal, as he dipped a forkful of first-day schnitzel from Lunches By Jacob in ketchup. “It feels like there’s not as much variety now.”

Some complained about the amount of time that it took to get the food compared with the pre-packaged handouts of first semester, but Ms. Ohana predicted that would improve.

“We fed 95 kids in 10 minutes, and I think that’s pretty good,” she said on the first day. “Now that everybody knows more or less where everything is, I’m sure it’ll go much faster.”

Less than three weeks later, the Boiling Point observed that students had cleared out the serving area eight minutes after the period began.

In New York, Mr. Schwartz worked for Ram Caterers, overseeing the catering process. In Los Angeles, Lunches By Jacob has catered events like brises, weddings and bar mitzvahs for six years.

But Shalhevet is his first school program.

“I’m looking forward to meeting the students and providing good, kosher, and healthy food,” he said.