Pit Stop Barbecue hits the tables of FHC

Ellie McDowell

More stories from Ellie McDowell

It takes a village
April 19, 2023

Pit Stop Barbecue’s store front at 6479 28th Street.

Lunch time has been the same for the students at FHC for far too long. Principal Steve Passinault believes that it might be time for a break from the same food students have been eating since kindergarten.

In the spirit of Winterfest week, FHC has paired with Pit Stop Barbecue—owned by an FHC family—to bring a more appetizing menu to the school’s cafeteria. Not only is there going to be a special menu on Wednesday, Feb. 23, but also it will be free to students thanks to the work of FHPS Food Service. Passinault is very excited about this opportunity for both Pit Stop and students.

“I think oftentimes—especially this time of year—students get worn down by the mundane everyday grind,” Passinault said. “Every day is the same thing. Winterfest week itself is going to be fun, but I think fun stuff like this is a good way to boost morale. There is a high-stress level for students, and any time we can introduce some fun into the students’ lives, it’s good for morale.”

The head of FHPS Food Service—Sarah Hawkins—couldn’t agree more on the idea of boosting morale for the students. There is a little more to it than just agreeing to pair with Pit Stop Barbecue.

There are USDA regulations schools have to follow, along with a contract signed with an outside company that provides lunches to FHPS students. Hawkins and Passinault had to work together to figure out a way around this, along with the fact that all lunches for students are meant to be free, but Pit Stop most definitely is not.

“We had to remain compliant with school board policies and USDA regulations,” Hawkins said. “Since lunch is free for all students during the 21-22 school year, it was my priority to ensure the Pit Stop lunch was free to all students as well. Mr. Passinault and I also met with Matt [Smith—owner of] Pit Stop—to develop a menu that would meet lunch component requirements for the USDA.”

Well, what did this group of adults come up with for lunch on the 23rd? There will be a choice between smoked pork or slow-grilled chicken, along with mac and cheese, baked beans, and cornbread. Both Hawkins and Passinault are stoked about the menu, and Hawkins even started working with the district chef to build and implement a Pit Stop-inspired menu to be seen in the future.

“The costs associated with [catering] are too high to be able to do it on a regular basis,” Hawkins said. “I do, however, see us being able to implement more Pit Stop inspired menus, and FHPS District Chef Dani [Eggers McClure] and I have already been talking about this. I can see collaborations like this for annual events for sure.”

The costs for this food are not a surprise. Making all of this food takes a lot of time and work. Pit Stop employees started making the food days in advance, but they are just as excited about the chance to cater to the high school students as the district staff is to have them.

“We schedule down to the minute,” Smith said. “We have a full the day of so everything gets done. The actual smoking of the meats will start on Tuesday at 8 am, and they will cook until probably 7 or 8 at night, so the meats themselves will take about 24 hours to cook.”

There will be a choice between smoked pork or slow grilled chicken, along with mac and cheese, baked beans, and corn bread.

As a father in the district, Smith is thrilled that students are getting this opportunity. He recognizes that not a lot of high schools do this, and he is glad Passinault is giving him the chance to kick off this hopefully annual event.

“We’re very excited,” Smith said. “I think it’s awesome of Mr. Passinault. We’ve done a lot of big events, so we know it’s going to be crazy.”

All of the adults working on this opportunity couldn’t be more excited for Pit Stop Barbecue to hit the tables in the FHC cafeteria. They hope to see more of what students enjoy in the cafeteria in the future.

“Chef Dani [Eggers McClure] and I are always open to the menu ideas from students,” Hawkins said. “The kitchen staff at FHC is a talented team, and they like to try new things. We welcome feedback and requests from our student customers. We want to remind you all that you are the reason we are here, so let us know what you want on the menu. Within USDA regulations and as cost allows, [we will take it into account].”