Spicy Korean BBQ, Tangy Thai Lemongrass Chicken, and Garlicky Buffalo Chicken drumsticks – they all sound like delicious dishes on the menu at your favorite restaurant.

But what if I told you these dishes are served for lunch at the local elementary school?


Move aside, turkey and cheese sandwiches – pulled chicken, buttermilk biscuits and chicken meatballs are taking over the center of the lunch tray. Millennials aren’t the only ones searching for the next “hot recipe,” kids’ taste buds are also buzzing for new, modern flavors and cuisines.

If you’re wondering if this as big of a trend as we’re making it sound, the numbers speak for themselves:

  • There has been a 283 percent increase in drumsticks on school menus year-over-year
  • Nashville Hot growth is up 137 percent over last year
  • More than half (51 percent) of school districts are offering entrée stations or “made to order” options
  • While finger foods like pizza remain popular for lunch, there’s even a new spin on that: a stuffed pizza breadstick

Chef Alexa McKay

As a chef on the Tyson Foods culinary team, my job is to satisfy adventurous taste buds by serving up innovative and balanced options. This year, we’re introducing bold new menu items like Nashville Hot chicken bites and waffle battered chicken bites to America’s school lunchrooms.

All decisions of what is served up by these Five Star Cafeterias is first taste-tested by a panel of judges tougher than the panel on “Top Chef”– the students themselves. To satisfy the cravings of the most kids possible, our new culinary forward creations must receive a score of 80 percent or higher to be served at school. And, what if we’re only passing with a “C”? Our Tyson culinary crew goes back to the kitchen and works on adjusting the recipe until we pass with flying colors.

These emerging kid foodies are more into food than ever before, which makes the lunchroom a great place to test out new recipes. They are leading the way in tasty trends. Kids are our consumers of the present and future, and we’re committed to finding foods that are nutritious and pack a flavor punch for this growing generation.

To put this theory to the test, ALLISON REED, Customer Experience Manager, took to the lunch room to ask some pint-sized palate experts about their changing flavor preferences.

Check out the VIDEO on our YouTube channel and decide for yourself whether you’re Team Broccoli or Team Brussel Sprouts.

Published September 11, 2018.

Tyson Foods Culinary Team at

Alexa grew up in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area and proudly claims TexMex as her heritage cuisine. She fell in love with cooking as a young girl. By the time she ended high school, she knew food was her passion and she wanted to "run away to New York and go to culinary school.”

As a member of our Culinary team, Alexa uses her food science and culinary experience to help create concepts for new products. She’ll work on the products from initial concepting and development all the way through production scale-up.

Alexa earned an associate degree in culinary arts from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and a Bachelor of Science in culinology, a blend of food science and culinary arts, from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. She earned a Master of Science in food, nutrition and culinary science from Clemson University. She's currently pursuing her certification to become a Research Chefs Association (RCA) certified research chef.