Ross Lunches in Top 10

In a given month, Liz Dobbs oversees 20,000 meals — a combination of breakfast, lunch, and dinner — for the 530 students enrolled at the Ross School.

Recently, the Daily Meal, a culinary website, named Ross’s among the top 10 school lunches in the country. Ranked at number four, the school received particular recognition for its locally sourced and diverse menu.

“Early on, Mrs. Ross was a pioneer in the school food movement, believing that if students ate well they learned better,” said Ms. Dobbs, referring to Courtney Ross, the school’s founder.

Ms. Dobbs, who has directed the food program for seven years, oversees 28 part-time and full-time employees. She said the staff generally eschews frozen food, preferring instead to make everything from scratch, be it homemade stocks, sauces, dressings, soups, or desserts.

As the school’s boarding student population has risen in recent years, at present comprising about 250 students, Ms. Dobbs now oversees a global kitchen that caters to tastes from more than 25 countries. For instance, while brown rice is served during lunchtime, white rice is offered at dinnertime. Ms. Dobbs described it as “comfort food” for students who are halfway around the world from their families.

When planning more than 1,200 meals each day (with hot lunches cooked at the Upper School in East Hampton and delivered to the Lower School in Bridgehampton), Ms. Dobbs tries to keep it “nutritious and wholesome and flavorful and interesting,” with an eye toward new and inventive dishes.

“By this time of the year, the students are bored with our menus,” said Ms. Dobbs, noting that Monday’s menu included macaroni and cheese, a consistent crowd-pleaser. Meatballs and pasta also top the list. “Complacency doesn’t work in food.”

Still, she is the first to concede that young palates can be picky, though peer pressure generally works in her favor. “If a friend is eating kale and tofu every day, they’ll probably try it — eventually,” she said.

Note: An earlier version of this story misidentified Ms. Dobbs as the designer of the Ross food program. Its founder was Ann Cooper.


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