Dining at Besant Hill

Walk into the BHS Commons at lunchtime on any given day and, as you’re greeted by the aromas of grilled vegetables with rosemary and roasted garlic, home-baked bread that just came out of the oven, and the scent of the sweetest tomatoes wafting from the salad bar, you may question for a moment, whether you’re still on the school campus or you’ve just stepped into a gourmet restaurant.

You make your way through the buffet stations scanning the selection of dishes. Your mouth begins to water and you realize that, at least for the next few minutes, your biggest problem is going to be how to narrow down your choice of what you’re going to eat.

Uncommon Dining at the Besant Hill Commons

“Hmm, should I have the “Southern California Fish Tacos topped with Gazpacho Salsa”, the “Garlic Chicken with Pepper Sauce” or the “Roasted Teriyaki Tofu Steak?” A side of “Ratatouille”, “Fresh Roasted Beet Salad” or “Coleslaw with Lime Cilantro?” Oh, but wait- There’s Minestrone too… Or, maybe just a spring mix salad, with cucumbers, tomatoes, garbanzo beans, red peppers and balsamic vinaigrette… Yikes! Today is dessert day, and Mary has baked one of her homemade fruit tarts… The oranges over there look really juicy…”

A little dazed, you finally abandon the process of elimination and head back to your table with a plate stacked with… a bit of everything, knowing that the gastronomic delights Chef Juana and her crew will concoct later that afternoon will land you right back in the same dilemma at dinnertime.

Ok, so not every student will get this excited over their food selection, but the truth is that the meals served daily at BHS are not only a feast for the senses, they are healthy too – and the variety is endless.

In the kitchen, Chef Juana Juarez and her staff are committed to preparing meals from scratch, using only the freshest ingredients, and limiting the use of processed foods, high fructose syrup, white flour and sugar. While the choices she offers for even the most avid meat-eaters are ample, she focuses on vegetarian meals, taking full advantage of the produce grown in the organic farm and orchards on the school grounds.

“The kids obviously have to learn their Math, English, and Science…” says Juana. “What I also want them to learn while they are here, is how to live a healthy life, and I want to help them understand how the foods they choose to eat can benefit or harm them.”

Juana also wants the students to learn to try different things – foods that perhaps they’ve never tasted before. And that is obvious when you see the menus she plans for an average week. With a lot of imagination and over 20 years of culinary experience, she finds countless ways to include tomatoes, onions, eggplant and the myriad of other vegetables and herbs from the garden, into her own versions of Greek Moussaka, Italian Lasagna, Cantonese and Thai Curry, Mexican Enchiladas, Korean Barbeque, Japanese Sushi, or an assortment of Spanish Tapas. Every day seems like “International Food Day” at BHS, and before the semester is over, while the students are still on campus, their taste-buds will have taken a complete tour around the world.

Desserts are not a staple on campus, but rather a semi-weekly treat. And they’re definitely worth waiting for!! When Mary Mills (another asset of the BHS kitchen for the past 20 years) goes to work on her signature “Bread Pudding with Chocolate Chips and Coconut”, her “Light Cheesecake with Fresh Peaches”, her “Zucchini Bread” or any of her fresh fruit tarts, the results are invariably mouth-watering.

So, welcome to the Besant Hill School dining experience. Good luck trying to limit your selection and…

Bon Appétit!