Every day, our School Nutrition Program staff is hard at work preparing thousands of healthy and tasty meals for local schoolchildren! We sat down with Head Chef Robert Soper (who’s cooked for celebrities like Johnny Cash and Harrison Ford!) to hear about the highlights and snag his delicious gumbo recipe.
Tell us about yourself!
My name is Robert G. Soper. I was born in NYC and raised in New Jersey. As a young child I became interested in cooking and started cooking at an early age. I got my first job in a restaurant at age 15 as a dishwasher. I worked my
way up through the ranks. I have worked in all types of restaurants from diners to fine dining. I have been a baker, cake decorator, production chef, corporate trainer, sous chef and then executive chef. I love cooking and the satisfaction of cooking for people.
What do you like about being Head Chef?
I like teaching people stuff they don’t know, culinary things. And I like seeing the kids enjoy the food.
What is your hope for the students whom you serve?
That they like it and that they try new things. Because as a child, I never tried new things, and I missed out on a lot.
What is your all-time favorite food?
Lasagna. Homemade. When I was a kid, my best friend’s grandmother would make these huge tables of food. She didn’t even speak English, all she did was cook, and she got so mad if you didn’t eat it. Man, she cooked the best stuff.
Any advice for your readers?
Don’t be afraid to try new things. I wasted a lot of time being afraid to try new stuff. You never know if you’ll like something until you try it!
Check out Chef Rob’s recipe below to whip up some tasty gumbo!
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) Butter
3 tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons Flour
2 pounds Yellow Onions (diced)
1 pound Green Bell Peppers (diced)
1 pound Celery (diced)
1/3 cup Chopped Garlic
1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp White Pepper
¾ tsp Dry Thyme
1/3 cup Cajun Seasoning
1.5 gallons Water
½ cup (4 ounces) Chicken base
3-14.5 ounce cans Diced Tomato
2 pounds Sliced Andouille Sausage
4 pounds Chicken (cooked or raw), chopped
1 ½ tablespoon Tabasco
1/3 cup + 1 tbs Worcestershire Sauce
Yield – about 2 gallons
Nutrition Facts (per 1 cup serving without rice): Calories 207, Total Fat 11g, Carbohydrate 7g, Fiber 1g, Protein 20g, Sodium 616mg, Potassium 461mg