A dozen chefs from across the U.S. will help participate in the first-ever Real School Food Challenge: National Restaurant Edition this October. This program enlists the support of healthy food advocates to illustrate it’s possible to create delicious, nutritious food that is scalable for school kitchens.

The 12 participating chefs are:

  • Chef Daniel Asher, River & Woods, Boulder, Colo.
  • Chef Hosea Rosenberg, Santo, Boulder, Colo.
  • Chef Alon Shaya, Safta, Denver
  • Chef Charleen Badman, FnB, Scottsdale, Ariz.
  • Chef Stephen Williams, Bouquet Restaurant, Ohio Valley
  • Chef Leonard Hollander, Arbor, Chicago
  • Chef Erik Bruner Yang, &pizza, a chain restaurant with locations in Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, New York City, Boston, Philadelphia and Miami, Fla.
  • Chef Toni Elkhouri, Cedar's Café, Melbourne, Fla.
  • Chef Gayle Pirie, Foreign Cinema, San Francisco
  • Chef Mihoko Obunai, Hosted by Brush, Atlanta
  • Chef Brandon Rosen, Hosted by CWC The Restaurant, Cincinnati
  • Chef Nathanial Zimet, Boucherie, New Orleans

The Chef Ann Foundation, the non-profit organization that runs the competition, invited chefs from the country to create meals that follow USDA healthy meal guidelines and have a food cost around $1.25, the average budget for a school lunch in the U.S.

As part of this first-ever national challenge, the participating chefs will serve their recipes on their restaurant menu throughout the month of October, donating a portion of proceeds to CAF. Five chef's recipes will be selected for their creativity, scalability and presentation, and those finalists will receive an invitation to travel to Brooklyn, N.Y., to compete at StarChefs International Congress, where CAF staff, a jury of school food operators, and local media will select the winning dish.

"Chefs are getting a lot of attention these days, and it's so inspiring to see how they are using that notoriety to give back," said Mara Fleishman, CAF CEO. "Showing America what is capable in school food will bring attention to the work so many of us are doing with school districts, helping them serve healthier, less processed meals."

CAF works to provide school communities with the tools, training, resources and funding that enables them to serve scratch-cooked food using whole ingredients. While celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2019, the organization has reached more than 10,000 schools and 3 million kids with its healthy school programming, according to CAF data.

"I'm so excited to help figure out how to give all kids in the U.S. the nutritious lunches they deserve," shared Chef Shaya. "In addition to calling awareness to how we can improve school lunches, it's also an exhilarating challenge for chefs to create delicious and nutritious meals on a low budget."