The chef and owner of Sapphire Laguna has a simple philosophy for healthy eating: “Touch earth and respect what you put in your body.” That passion motivated him to start Sapphire at School more than a decade ago “to nourish and educate young people for a lifetime of wellness.” Now the Type 2 diabetic and father has taken over meal service at 10 O.C. schools and created a mobile app to make ordering meals for students easy.
How did you get started?
We met with the headmaster at St. Anne School in January 2009. He said maybe next year. On Feb. 9, 2009, he called me at 7:45 in the morning. “How soon can you be here? Our food supplier locked the door. Our kids cannot eat.” I said, “I’ll be there in two hours,” and we’ve been there ever since.
Were there challenges to feeding children specifically?
We had to learn about what’s good for children. We learned that HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup) is killing people. Antibiotics and hormones given to the cows is what’s hurting our kids.
How does being a father affect your perspective?
I’ve trademarked the saying “Every child is my child.” I will not give anything to your children I wouldn’t give to mine. Even my own little guy, he likes a lot of carbs. I’m not keen on it. I tell him to eat nuts, eat fruit, eat an apple. There are more than 2,700 kinds of apples in the U.S.! If you do not educate these kids, they will never learn.
What about picky kids?
Being a chef, you are an ambassador of people’s minds, flavor, education, and health. You have to teach them how to organize daily food choices. Learn ingredients. Learn spices. Learn to enhance your palate. I made spinach-pineapple lemonade, and the kids loved it. I made horchata out of quinoa. We have the power to change people’s approach.
Check It Out!
Find out more at sapphirelaguna.com