TCU students cook for their classmates with help from guest chef Chris Murray

Students had the chance to prepare a unique lunch for the entire Tri-City United High School Jan. 28 when guest chef Chris Murray helped cook up a Vietnamese dish.

Murray, a corporate regional chef for Taher Inc., TCU’s food service provider, who has worked in the business for more than 35 years and oversees school food service in schools across 17 states in the U.S. including TCU. Part of Murray’s job is to come up with unique, nutritious and tasty food to serve in school lunchrooms.

This is Murray’s second visit to the district. In October, Murray cooked up a meal for parent-teacher conferences at the TCU Middle School in Montgomery.

Murray has worked for numerous food service companies over the years, and was trained at a community college in Denver. He credits his practical experiences working at high end country clubs like Cherry Hills in Colorado as one of the reasons he is in his position today. Murray was also the director of the Minnesota Vikings Food Service and has even helped create food product lines for Holiday convenience stores.

Taher sends Murray around the world to discover new dishes in unique locations. Murray has visited 18 countries and said he seeks out restaurants that have a “hole in the wall” look, because they tend to stick to more traditional styles of cooking. Recently, he visited Hanoi, Vietnam where he brought back a crispy cinnamon sausage recipe that included jasmine rice and marinated vegetables.

This was the dish Murray chose for students in foods classes at TCU to cook up for the entire school. Three separate classes will help prepare the dish with one class preparing the sausage, another prepped Asian vegetable slaw and a third smoked the meat. The three classes prepped the food on Jan. 27 to be ready and served the next day.

TCU Food Service Director Amy Sauter said because of the foods classes the school offers, this was a great opportunity to bring a professional chef in to work with the students.

“He can come in and offer an expertise on different cultures to the students through the food he prepares,” said Sauter.
Sauter said that Murray is a great example of what kids can do with his degree and the places they can go. She mentioned that it was great to have him working hands-on with the students.

Murray used his experience to show the kids how to prepare certain vegetables in the kitchen. Students used a mandolin slicer to cut Yukon radishes and chopped up cilantro for the dish. He also showed them the proper way to pull apart mushrooms.

Murray said he enjoyed his work with the kids to prepare the dish.

“To see some of these kids enjoy cooking and hear that some will move on and succeed in it, that’s what makes it worth it,” said Murray. “Never discount a child’s taste buds. They know food, whether we like to think they do or not, they know it.”

On the dish itself, “different” was the popular adjective among many students. Some students said the cinnamon gave the dish a sweet taste.

“It was good, but different,” said TCU student Aaron Chimal, who went on to describe it with a laugh as a crunchier hot dog. “It’s always nice to try new things at school.”

Students were on hand to help serve the dish as well.

Murray has had some very interesting dishes while traveling the globe. He said one the least desirable dishes he tried was a goat brain sandwich in Morocco. Murray added the cooked guinea pig he tried in Peru is actually a very tasty dish.