New school bakery makes homemade food for students
Posted: Friday, October 7, 2011 8:01 pm
By LUKE THOMPSON
The Leaf Chronicle
CLARKSVILLE (AP) — Every school night while most of Montgomery County’s 29,000 students are sleeping, the kitchen of Richview Middle School is alive with the sound of laughter and the smells of fresh bread.
Five days a week from 8 p.m. to 4:30 a.m., bakery manager Joel Babor and seven women create the rolls, muffins, cookies and more that go out to all 36 schools in the Clarksville-Montgomery County School system. As he walked around the kitchen on a Monday night and observed the work of the bakery’s staff, Babor said they would end up making around 11,000 rolls for Tuesday’s lunch.
“We’re always looking for something that can’t be topped,” Babor said. “I’m sure we’re there on the rolls.”
The county’s child nutrition director, Debbie Mobley, agreed that the whole wheat, made-from-scratch rolls are the signature of the new CMCSS Bakery. Babor calls Mobley a “real hero” for bringing to life a vision that she said came together because of the retirement of a generation of bakers, as well as a desire to create healthier, more natural products.
“We just wanted to go back to consistency and have equality across the county,” Mobley said. “And it’s more economical to bake from scratch than it is to use mixes.”
The idea, and many of the recipes, came from the Harding County school district in Kentucky, one of the places where Babor previously worked. Mobley said the food met the strict nutritional standards in Kentucky, so she’s confident the results will be the same in Tennessee.
The bakery incurs some additional costs by adding an hour to the hours of drivers, whom Mobley said still drove from school to school even when the district had multiple bakeries. But by not buying pre-made baked goods, Mobley said savings are realized by cutting costs from 16 cents to 10 cents on cinnamon rolls, 21 cents to 10 cents on cookies, and an estimated 8 cents to 5-7 cents on each roll.
Mobley said Babor — who has been working in school cafeterias since he retired from the Army in 1995 and worked at Northwest High School last year — is the only new hire of the group, since he handpicked the rest of his staff from various schools around the country. That includes Ina Moss, an experienced baker that Mobley said trained the other bakers in how to give their creations that unique, homemade flavor.
Plus, Babor said, the food simply tastes better. The staff is always tinkering with its recipes, and it even adopted Mobley’s own homemade recipe to replace the banana muffins that Babor said “weren’t good enough.”
Whether they’re making rolls, muffins, or cookies, Babor said the staff is always having fun during its odd hours, even if things aren’t going smoothly. Babor and Mobley laugh together when they recall their first night in August, when the ovens wouldn’t heat up, as well as one Sunday when Mobley hand-delivered fresh flour in the pouring rain.
“You do what you have to do to make this successful,” said Mobley, who works out of the district office during the day but contacts Babor almost every night. “This was one of those things that they know how passionate I was about it and they are the most supportive group I’ve ever had to work with.”
Published in The Messenger 10.07.11