Culinary legend Robert Rusan hangs up his MRH chef's hat.
It was a good bet that if you came across Robert Rusan in the hallways or the cafeteria and you asked him, "How are you today?"... his response would be "Oh, I've still got a heartbeat."
The truth is, Rusan himself might best be known as the beating heart of the MRH food services department... at least from the students' point of view.
In mid-March, Rusan stepped down as chef of the Maplewood Richmond Heights School District following a ten-year run. He was a key leader in establishing MRH's Farm to School programming, partnering with local farmers to purchase fresh produce and select meats. He developed recipes that utilized farm-fresh products and ingredients from the school district's own on-campus gardens that employed “speed scratch” methods while adhering to school nutrition guidelines. He started a program called “Teen Cuisine” in which apprenticeship students learned all the facets of harvesting, cleaning, cooking, and serving.
He received numerous awards and media attention over the years for his work at MRH, culminating in 2015, when the School Nutrition Association named him a School Nutrition Hero. Only four others received this nationwide honor that celebrates the extraordinary men and women in the school nutrition profession who make a difference in the lives of school children and go beyond their daily responsibilities in making a significant contribution to their communities.
Rusan is not stepping away from the nutrition arena. His next venture is RUFFS Kitchen: Rural Urban Farm Foods for Students, which continues his work educating youth and serving delicious local food in the private sector as a restaurant and catering business.
In his own words: "Today was one of the most bittersweet moments in my life. I retired from the Maplewood Richmond Heights school district. What an amazing experience. I am so thankful and grateful to the district for giving me this great opportunity. It has truly helped me to develop into the chef that I am today. As I stated to my staff, teachers, support crew, students and parents... if I can take the love that I received through my time at MRH and share it with the world, what a HAPPY & JOYOUS place it would be.
I and my partner Betsy Mitchell have started a restaurant business. Technically, it’s more than a restaurant business. It falls under the umbrella of the program RUFFS (Rural Urban Farms for School). There will be a seed to table/farm to school training for youths in neighboring districts. It will also include catering services. This dream started five years ago and now the doors of opportunity have opened up for me. I will always continue to support school nutrition.
Again, thank you for all your support. Continue to keep me in your prayers and well wishes. Thank you, I love you all."
For more information, contact MRH School District at (314) 644-4400.