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Taher CEO brings Spanish dish to FDSH

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Fort Dodge Senior High students grab a taste of paella made by Bruce Taher, CEO of the Taher food services the Fort Dodge school district uses, on Friday.

Spanish paella is a dish you might expect to see at a fine dining restaurant or in a warm kitchen in Spain. Where you probably wouldn’t expect to see the chicken and seafood rice dish, however, is a high school cafeteria.

But that’s exactly what happened on Friday at Fort Dodge Senior High School as Bruce Taher, CEO of Taher Inc. Food Services, visited the district as part of his Spanish Paella Tour at schools across the nation. Taher Inc. is the professional food service management company that provides school meals at the Fort Dodge Community School District.

Taher prepared a massive pan of paella, which is a dish named for the pan it’s made in, to share with the students at FDSH during their lunch shifts. The rice was cooked in a saffron broth, with bell peppers, chicken, andouille sausage, mussels and jumbo head-on shrimp. The dish was garnished with green peas and parsley.

“This is our way of saying thank you, but at the same time teaching them about Spanish comfort food,” Taher said. “We want to make sure they learn about what happens in the rest of the world, just like they do in a classroom.”

Taher Inc. was founded in 1981 by Taher and has held the contract to provide food service to the FDCSD for the last 21 years. The company works in schools in 25 states, Taher said, and he makes a point to visit the districts, usually one a month. This month, it was Fort Dodge’s turn.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Fort Dodge Senior High freshman Sammantha Welter tries some paella during lunch on Friday. Welter gave the dish a 10 out of 10.

“It was a pleasure having him here,” said Nick Sells, chef director for Taher at the FDCSD. “We don’t get this very often and it’s not like everybody gets a visit, so it’s really cool that he chose us.”

Taher said he likes to focus on fresh food with no additives or preservatives and the visits help him set the example of the company’s priorities. On this Spanish Paella Tour he’s on, Taher hopes to introduce students to new cuisines they may not know.

“We want to give them access and exposure to stuff that they otherwise might not have,” Taher said.

The mussels and head-on shrimp are proteins not often found in the Midwest, so many students were trying them for the first time.

“I am actually amazed how well they adopted it,” Taher said. “It’s kind of nice for them to really see what a shrimp really looks like.”

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Bruce Taher, CEO of Taher Inc. Food Services, garnishes some parsley onto a dish of paella for Brandon Hansel, FDCSD Executive Director of Financial Services, while Fort Dodge Senior HIgh freshman Colin Appler dishes himself up some paella on Friday.

Freshman Sammantha Welter had never had paella before Friday.

“It’s pretty good,” she said. “I didn’t even know what it is and I just tried everything and I’m like this is really good. I gave it a 10 out of 10.”

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Chef Nick Sells, chef director for Taher food services at the Fort Dodge Community School District, lays some jumbo head-on shrimp onto a large dish of paella during lunch at Fort Dodge Senior High on Friday.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Bruce Taher, CEO of Taher Inc. Food Services, visited Fort Dodge Senior HIgh on Friday, where he made a paella for students to try.

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