The Brigaid mission is to transform the way our students eat.

Led by Dan Giusti, the former head chef of Noma in Copenhagen, Brigaid is a group of chefs rethinking what it means to feed people. We recruit professionally trained chefs to lead school kitchens full-time with the goal of cooking delicious food from scratch. These meals simultaneously meet the strict budgetary and nutritional guidelines set by the National School Lunch Program and our own quality standards.

Since 2016, Brigaid has operated in the six public schools of New London, Connecticut, serving scratch-made breakfasts, lunches, and suppers to more than 3,300 students every day. As of 2018, Brigaid has also partnered with New York City Public Schools to begin service in six schools in the Bronx.

The chef’s job is more than cooking. Brigaid chefs work with their staff to learn new skills, they develop relationships with students and community members, they talk with students to improve the meals they serve, and through these actions they become fixtures in their schools and communities.

We believe that our food means more when it comes from a trusted member of our students’ own community, who they can feel comfortable giving honest feedback to. 

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New London Public Schools

New London Public Schools (NLPS) is a district with six schools that serves over 3,600 students. With 56% of New London families qualifying for food assistance programs, NLPS is also a Community Eligible district where all students qualify for free school meals.

Brigaid’s partnership with New London Public Schools started in 2016 as we launched our first pilot program in New London. There are now six chefs in the six schools in New London working with the 45+ original kitchen staff to execute a scratch-cooked menu. In our first year, we served over 800,000 meals in NLPS!

Brigaid will always be grateful to the New London community for the opportunity it gave us as we have been able to prove our model and learn countless lessons from this initial pilot program.

If you would like to learn more about our chefs in New London, click here, and if you would like to learn more about NLPS's Food Services Program, click here.


Frequently Asked Questions

 

Q:SO What is Brigaid?

A: Brigaid was founded by Dan Giusti, the former head chef of one of the world’s top restaurants, Noma, in Copenhagen. After our first year of operations, we are now a growing Brigaid of people dedicated to transforming school food.

You can learn more about our team here.

 

Q: WHAT'S WRONG WITH SCHOOL MEALS RIGHT NOW? 
 

A: There are three big challenges to school food currently.

1. The food doesn’t taste good.

“As much as you think that these kids don’t even care and they’ll just decide that they’ll eat this or they’ll eat that, there’s quite a rhyme or reason why they do and don’t eat things,” he says. “And if it tastes better and there’s more flavor, then they’re gonna eat it.” - Our Founder, Dan Giusti, to Food Republic

2. The kitchen staff are under-resourced and under-trained, which negatively impacts the experience for both staff and students. 

"I really look at cooking—all levels of cooking—exactly the same, whether it’s cooking in a school kitchen, whether it’s cooking at Noma, whether it’s McDonald’s. Your clientele is different, and your price points are different; your facilities are different; your staff is different; your ingredients are different. Everything is different, but if you’re trying to do your best, it’s all the same." Founder, Dan Giusti, To Market Magazine 

3. Our current free meal reimbursement rate of $3.31 (including labor and equipment expenses) per meal makes the entire endeavor nearly impossible for those without a culinary background.


Q: HOW WILL BRIGAID ADDRESS THESE CHALLENGES AND ACTUALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

A: All over the country, school food service directors are doing everything they can to provide what is best for students. They are hardworking, well-intentioned people who are overburdened and plainly not getting the resources they need.

This is where we come in. We focus on the kitchen and the overall dining experience. By bringing in a professionally trained Chef whose entire career is focused on making sure the food is delicious while leading the kitchen and maintaining cost. Food service directors and schools will finally have the resources they need to provide delicious, scratch-made food to students.

Brigaid is dedicated to listening to and working with the staff who are already there and who know the schools, communities, and students better than anyone. We invest in their professional training, and forge a new kind of team that draws on the best parts of restaurants, schools, and more.

 

Q: HOW WILL WE MAKE IT WORK FINANCIALLY?

A: Brigaid’s model is to make our program financially self-sustaining for our food service departments.

With more delicious food and greater variety come higher student participation rates. By increasing the number of students eating school meals, school districts receive more federal and state reimbursement dollars that go directly back to their food service programs.

Second, we take advantage of school kitchen spaces that are too often neglected. Nationwide, these spaces are untouched after 1PM, all the while test kitchens are being built to try to satisfy the outside demand for kitchen space. Instead of shutting off the lights after lunch, we put a professional chef in that space to generate revenue for the school district. Currently, this has been mainly through internal and external catering. But the possibilities are endless.

The last major part is finding efficiencies. As a consumer, we all know it is cheaper to buy a raw chicken thigh compared to chicken nuggets. So to start, the transition to scratch-cooking has significantly lowered our food costs while dramatically increasing the quality of the food. Moreover, with a chef schools have a person leading the kitchen who is trained to find efficiencies in their space, and those efficiencies have led to cost savings.

 

Q: WHAT HAPPENS TO THE EXISTING KITCHEN STAFF?

A: We are dedicated to retaining all existing kitchen staff. The chef trains and leads the staff to execute a fully scratch-cooked menu.

 

Q:HOW DOES BRIGAID choose WHERE TO WORK?

A: We chose New London, Connecticut as our first pilot program, and we’re now looking to expand.

We are targeting high-need school districts with six or more schools, and we are looking for districts with administrators, community leaders, and local stakeholders who are ready to embrace the change Brigaid will bring.

We are also looking to work with districts that have food service directors already in place and have large, self-operating kitchens that can serve a large number of students.

If this fits your district and community, fill out our form here and we'll be in touch!

 

Q:CAN I BE A CHEF FOR BRIGAID?

A: If you are interested in becoming a Brigaid chef, fill out our form.

 

q:CAN I BECOME AN INVESTOR IN BRIGAID? CAN I MAKE A GRANT OR DONATION TO SUPPORT YOUR MISSION?

A: Thank you for your interest. We welcome the opportunity to speak with investors and foundations about our current model and vision for Brigaid. Please send us an email here.