Not many schools can boast of having a personal chef.
LaMotte School enjoys that distinction, offering lunches prepared by licensed personal chef Derek Ivester.
Since Ivester started making hot lunches two years ago, half the school’s 63 students have signed up, said LeeAnn Burke, principal of the rural elementary school on Bear Canyon Road, east of Bozeman.
“Once I took over, I made the big switch to local and organic,” Ivester said in his native Georgian accent. “Food has always been my love.”
While eating grass-fed burgers last week, students were asked how many love the hot lunches. Hands shot up in the air.
Ivester said he tries to make school lunches like meals he’d serve at home. He reduces sugar, buys local vegetables and makes biscuits and nacho cheese sauce from scratch.
“Let’s not just open cans,” he said.
Ivester, whose daughter Ashlin attends eighth grade, used to work as a para-professional classroom aide.
“I’ve always supported my teaching habit by catering,” Ivester said.
He met his wife, Katie, while earning a master’s degree in multi-ethnic literature in Long Beach, California. Teaching never paid well, so he also catered and bartended.
Ivester grew up camping and backpacking, so he felt attracted by Montana’s outdoors. He and his wife moved to Bozeman with no jobs.
“We kind of moved out here with the Montana dream,” he said.
Now Katie teaches math at Gallatin College. When not cooking school lunches, he works on his business, Mountain Fresh Italian Ice. Similar to sorbet, it’s 100 percent natural and vegan, with no artificial colors or flavors.
After being sold at farmers markets for six years, the frozen treats are getting picked up by a regional grocery distributor. They will be in Montana State University’s dining halls in January. He hopes to expand into national parks.
“It’s a much healthier version of dessert,” Ivester said proudly.
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