In the big, professional kitchen at the fairly new Central Texas Food Bank facility in Southeast Austin, more than 80 nutrition professionals from several Central Texas school districts learned new recipes and new skills on Saturday.
The goal of Meal Appeal University is to increase the number of students who eat at their school cafeterias, which is not an easy task.
Just ask Director of School Services for the Texas Preparatory School, Kimberely Willis.
"It's cafeteria food! It doesn't taste like my mom's food," Willis said, mimicking what students told her.
Willis and others who volunteered to attend the program on their own time on a Saturday showed their passion about food.
"We're trying to incorporate more global flavors into school menus," said Kelly Waldron.
Waldron is with Region 13 Education Service Center. She has searched for the culinary Holy Grail, otherwise known as "what Generation Z is looking for."
So far, Waldron's research showed, "Asian flavors and spicy flavors seem to be really popular in schools."
But what's just as important as the food tasting good is the food looking good.
"It's all about appealing with the eye first," said Charlotte Hachenberg.
She is with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which funded Meal Appeal University for the second year.
"With Generation Z, they have a 5-second attention span," she explained.
So training also included food photography. Volunteers learned how to capture edibles in their best light.
A taste test scored well with the school cooks, but they don't have the final say-so.
"Just because adults like it may not mean kids will like it," said Waldron.
School nutrition professionals also took classes in knife skills and garnishing.
This is the second year the USDA has funded the program, but its future is uncertain with a new president in office.