Fort Dodge Senior High students grab a taste of paella

Spanish paella is a dish you might expect to see at a fine dining restaurant or in a warm kitchen in Spain. Where you probably wouldn’t expect to see the chicken and seafood rice dish, however, is a high school cafeteria.

But that’s exactly what happened on Friday at Fort Dodge Senior High School as Bruce Taher, CEO of Taher Inc. Food Services, visited the district as part of his Spanish Paella Tour at schools across the nation. Taher Inc. is the professional food service management company that provides school meals at the Fort Dodge Community School District.

Taher prepared a massive pan of paella, which is a dish named for the pan it’s made in, to share with the students at FDSH during their lunch shifts. The rice was cooked in a saffron broth, with bell peppers, chicken, andouille sausage, mussels and jumbo head-on shrimp. The dish was garnished with green peas and parsley.

“This is our way of saying thank you, but at the same time teaching them about Spanish comfort food,” Taher said. “We want to make sure they learn about what happens in the rest of the world, just like they do in a classroom.”

Taher Inc. was founded in 1981 by Taher and has held the contract to provide food service to the FDCSD for the last 21 years. The company works in schools in 25 states, Taher said, and he makes a point to visit the districts, usually one a month. This month, it was Fort Dodge’s turn.

Fort Dodge Senior High freshman Sammantha Welter

“It was a pleasure having him here,” said Nick Sells, chef director for Taher at the FDCSD. “We don’t get this very often and it’s not like everybody gets a visit, so it’s really cool that he chose us.”

Taher said he likes to focus on fresh food with no additives or preservatives and the visits help him set the example of the company’s priorities. On this Spanish Paella Tour he’s on, Taher hopes to introduce students to new cuisines they may not know.

“We want to give them access and exposure to stuff that they otherwise might not have,” Taher said.

The mussels and head-on shrimp are proteins not often found in the Midwest, so many students were trying them for the first time.

“I am actually amazed how well they adopted it,” Taher said. “It’s kind of nice for them to really see what a shrimp really looks like.”

Bruce Taher, CEO of Taher Inc. Food Services

Freshman Sammantha Welter had never had paella before Friday.

“It’s pretty good,” she said. “I didn’t even know what it is and I just tried everything and I’m like this is really good. I gave it a 10 out of 10.”

Chef Nick Sells, chef director for Taher food services

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