Local chef gives Orange County schools culinary makeover

RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA, Calif. (KABC) -- Some Orange County students are getting a major menu upgrade, all thanks to a local chef who wanted to see a change in his own kids' lunches.

Chef Azmin Ghahreman, of Sapphire Laguna in Laguna Beach, is helping turn around lunch time at 11 Orange County schools, including Santa Margarita Catholic High School.

"You don't have to have chicken fingers or pizza every day. You can have something that's like actual food," said freshman Ben Robertson.

The deep fryers which used to cook lunch for the school's more than 1,000 students are now cold and empty. This year, the school began a partnership with Ghahreman and his Sapphire at School program.

"It kind of gives the high school kind of like a facelift, because it's so refreshing to have that alternative," said senior Megan Snader.

The chef focuses on offering meals made with all-natural, fresh ingredients. You're hard pressed to find pizza and soda, which have been replaced by sandwiches, salads, fruits, water and lemonade.

"My purpose is to educate the children for their life," Ghahreman said. "Teach them how to eat, how to eat healthier."

It's not just the students, either. Sapphire also took over the faculty dining room. Staff members say the program is changing the culture of the school.

"People stay for lunch now, where they didn't, the teachers would all maybe try to zip out a little bit and get something," said Carolyn Bien, a faculty member.

"They learn about healthy choices, healthy snack options, and then I think ultimately it will improve their learning," said Andy Sulick, the school president.

Ghahreman also makes sure to keep prices low for students and their parents. He's absorbing the extra costs to make healthier food. The father of four say it's a labor of love.

"That's my love to give to all the families, and I hope to be able to feed all the campuses in Orange County one day," Ghahreman said.
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