The RV Chronicles — Serving up some sunshine

It’s been more than four years since I first sang the praises in these pages of school cafeteria employees.  I was reminded earlier this week why I’m such a fan.

Did you know that school food service workers are often the first and last line of defense in identifying and seeking help for malnourished and food insecure children? Did you know that, beyond the classroom, the only encouragement that many of our children receive comes from the person running the cash register in a school cafeteria?

And did you know that, not only are school food service workers among the lowest paid professionals in the culinary and education worlds, they also work part-time hours and are not often the afforded benefits? All of those hours, by the way, are spent on their feet.

But you’ll rarely hear them complain.

Fact is, school food service workers have among the lowest turnover rates in the employment world — 10 years on average.  Are you curious why they tend to stick around so long?

Oh, sure. With that kind of experience many of them could land a job at any restaurant, commissary or medical facility in town — probably making a few more bucks in the process.  But there’s one thing about the schools that can’t be found anywhere else.


And anyone who loves my children, your children — everybody’s children — like their own is truly a special being.


My tasks in school public relations often land me at a campus cafeteria somewhere — or at command central, where the menus for thousands of children are created, tons of meat and vegetables are procured and the once-in-a-blue-moon interview for a new food service worker takes place.

After a meeting with our directors earlier this week, Yvonne (who sits at the top of our child nutrition brass) made the trip from the other side of town through a rocky construction zone to bring me a few pounds of grapefruit picked from her family’s tree. Not only does such an out-of-the-way effort typify the spirit of the school food service worker, Yvonne also delivered a wonderful technique for elevating the grapefruit well beyond breakfast status.

Who wouldn’t be a fan?

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Grapefruit Brûlée

Grapefruit Brûlée — Luscious. Sunshine.

Grapefruit Brûlée — Simple. Luscious. Sunshine.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Grapefruit Brûlée
Grapefruit Brûlée — Simple. Luscious. Sunshine. In about 5 minutes.
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 4
  • 2 - Large grapefruits, very cold*
  • ½ cup - Light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 TB - Unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp - Kosher salt
  1. Preheat oven to broil setting, with the rack set about 4-6 inches beneath the heat elements. -or- You can use a butane/propane torch**.
  2. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, butter and Kosher salt.
  3. Half the grapefruits crosswise; loosen the grapefruit segments with a knife or grapefruit spoon.
  4. Spread the sugar mixture equally over the four grapefruit halves. (It won't look pretty at this point. No worries.)
  5. If broiling, place grapefruits on a baking sheet and cook until topping is caramelized, about 3 minutes in most ovens. If using a culinary torch or standard butane/propane torch (my choice), completely melt and caramelize the topping.
  6. Serve immediately.
* - Chilled grapefruits are fine, but this dish is better if the already-chilled grapefruits are placed in the freezer for about 20 minutes prior to preparation.
** - If you don't know how to properly use a torch, find someone who does. As delicious as Grapefruit Brûlée is, it's not worth burning down your home for.



  1. I adore grapefruit and find the idea of a brulee on top of them fantastic. I’ll definitely be giving this a try, Adam.

    As far as food service workers are concerned, the ones at Sophie’s school do a good job and she has never had anything but nice words for them.

  2. Kathryn @ anotherfoodieblogger says:

    I just love a good ruby red! What a nice tribute to school cafeteria workers!!! I have two in my family, one on each side, and both have been at their schools for longer than ten years. Just goes to show you!

    • adamjholland says:

      I love a ruby red too, Kathryn, but I think these might be the ‘Foster’ variety – an old Texas grapefruit that’s rarely available commercially. Not sure exactly, but they sure are delicious. And yay for the child nutrition workers!

  3. First – this is THE PERFECT post! I love grapefruit AND I have been an advocate for those who are hungry for over 20 years. Cafeteria ladies and gentlemen are among the finest people on earth and I applaud you for shining a bright light on them today – I hope you don’t mind, I’m going to share on KK’s FB page!

  4. You are soooo right. We recently farmed our cafeteria duties out to an outside vendor, which in all honesty elevated the nutrition and taste of our food. I often think back to the times when homemade cinnamon rolls were made and caused the entire building smell like grandma’s kitchen. (I also wonder about some of those old pairings, too, like said cinnamon rolls and vegetable soup, fish sticks and mac ‘n cheese, etc. ) Thanks for the shout out to all these much appreciated and under recognized cogs in the public education wheel.

    • adamjholland says:

      The taste and nutrition of the food falls solely on the manager or director. I’ve gone to cafeterias in the same school district — same menus, sources for food, etc. — and it was like night and day. Glad you stopped by, Debra. Hope all is well. :-)

  5. Even in private schools (which in our case means overseas international schools) the lunch ladies are still more concerned with keeping children fed. Case in point was our Madam Wong at the International School of Kuala Lumpur. The children had swipe card to which their parents would add credit. When the balance got below a certain point, parents were reminded to top up. After the money was completely gone, Madam Wong was supposed to send the child to the office without lunch. Turn away a hungry child? She just couldn’t do it. She was a treasure, as I am sure your lunch ladies/gents are as well.
    Love the caramelization on those grapefruits halves, Adam!

    • adamjholland says:

      That very thing happens in school cafeterias here too. I know of one school principal who keeps her ‘card’ at the cash register, where the workers have been instructed to use it for children with no money. And thank you for your kind words. :-)

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