What’s Cooking With Chef Burns?


Analee Carroll

Chef Burns (center) poses with Bromfield lunch staff at Hildreth Elementary School

Ewan Ward, Staff Writer

After a long haul as lunch director, Chef Paul Correnty recently retired, passing the ladle onto Chef Eleni Burns. Who is she, and what are her plans for the lunch program at the Harvard Public Schools?

Before joining the Harvard school district, she worked at her parents’ restaurant from the time she was 12 years old until it was sold in 2010. Afterward, she continued pursuing her passion; at one point, she even had her own café!

Since childhood, Chef Burns has been surrounded by food. As a first-generation Greek immigrant, Mediterranean cuisines influence the meals she “[plans] on serving for the school lunch.” Her meals are “clean” and “simple” with “local and seasonally sourced foods.”

According to Burns, food should be “colorful and nutritious” because “we eat with our eyes first, so I want the food we put out to look good.” But most importantly, the students choose what dishes stay and which ones go.

According to Chef Burns, the pandemic has disrupted the transportation of produce. “It’s having a massive impact on everything to do with school lunch,” reported Burns. “I don’t know when and if my deliveries will arrive with my products. When we do receive them, I don’t always have enough product. Because of these issues, I can’t produce a consistent menu and I’m spending an enormous amount of time chasing down products, rescheduling deliveries, and researching substitutes.”

The government has put more funding into the school lunch program, making first portions free. This means that the regulations and standards have been loosened slightly. Specifically, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a nationwide waiver on March 25th of last year allowing schools to adjust their meal plans when certain foods might be unavailable.

In the past, guidelines have been set in stone by the USDA. For example, before the pandemic, high schoolers’ vegetable portions had to be at least one cup. But now, with the updates, these guides are less rigid in case schools can’t fulfill them.

Ultimately, the pandemic has changed school lunches nationwide, just as the Harvard Public schools have felt a shift in their lunch community. School meals have been an integral part of Bromfield for ages. But despite the pandemic, Chef Burns is actively trying to make it more enjoyable for all of us.