The Story Of Unusual Journey Of Chef Dan Giusti
Image Credit: Dan Giusti

Dan Giusti is a name that may not be familiar to many, but his impact on the worlds of both fine dining and institutional catering has been nothing short of revolutionary. As a highly trained chef with years of experience in some of the world's most prestigious restaurants, Dan Giusti had it all. But despite his success in the fine dining world, Giusti couldn't shake the feeling that he wanted to do more with his skills and expertise. And so, he made the bold decision to leave the world of haute cuisine behind and start a company that would make a real difference in the world: Brigaid, a school lunch startup that provides healthy, affordable meals to more than 14,000 students across the US.

Giusti's journey to becoming a leader in the world of school nutrition began in the prestigious kitchens of some of the world's finest restaurants. After training at the Culinary Institute of America and working his way up the ranks at some of the most renowned dining establishments in the world, Giusti found himself as the head chef of Noma, the legendary two-Michelin-starred restaurant in Copenhagen that has long been at the forefront of the F&B industry in terms of both culinary innovation and sustainability. Giusti's qualities as a born leader were credited with helping propel the restaurant to the top of the World’s Best list twice, in 2012 and 2014, a rare feat only a few can lay claim to.

However, Giusti began to feel a sense of disillusionment with the fine dining world. He saw firsthand the amount of food waste that occurred in restaurants as well as the often exorbitant prices that diners were willing to pay for a single meal. He wanted to use his knowledge and experience in the kitchen to do good in the world, and he saw the world of school lunches as the ideal place to do so. Giusti would leave Noma in 2016 to embark on this noble quest, founding Brigaid Kitchen in the same year after a successful pilot program spread across several schools in New London, Connecticut.

Giusti founded Brigaid with the goal of providing healthier, more delicious options for school lunches at a more affordable price point. The company's meals are all made from scratch using fresh, whole ingredients and are designed to be both nutritious and appealing to kids. All of the meals prepared in schools that are a part of the program are prepared by professional chefs that are thoroughly vetted by Giusti. At a cost of just $3.41 per plate, Brigaid is able to offer its meals to schools at a fraction of the price of traditional school lunch providers while setting the bar for the industry with regards to food quality, both in terms of taste and hygiene. Giusti admits that the process of learning how to cook was much harder than he initially thought, crediting the process with giving him a whole new perspective on food. His proprietary business model is considered truly revolutionary; most industry experts would have thought it impossible to serve nutritionally sound, restaurant-quality food on an industrial scale at a profit. Guisti and his team have done all that and more, setting a new standard for the industry within just a year of the company’s inception.

Since its founding, Brigaid has experienced rapid growth, expanding from serving just 3,300 students spread across just six schools in a single district in its first year to serving over 14,000 students across the country today. The company has also garnered widespread praise for its innovative approach to school lunches; the Brigand team actively gathers feedback from students to improve their menus, both directly and at set intervals, with an emphasis on daily observations. This active approach to improving food via micro adjustments is what made the program work. Guisti recounts the process: "First, we did things like roast chicken tacos with corn tortillas, and the kids didn’t like the corn tortillas." We did butternut squash soup with coconut milk, and one day I was there and saw a kid spit it out in the trash can. We did what we wanted to do, which was nave. "But we moved on."

Brigand’s current menus consist of delectable food that is inclusive of a wide range of cuisines and dietary preferences. The program chefs at each school serve elaborate meals that are made with the help of the schools' existing canteen staff with the best produce that is available on the market and made from scratch every day. The daily rotation could consist of anything from a simple meal such as Alfredo pasta with Caesar salad and fresh fruit to a more intricate plate of hand-rolled enchiladas with rice and beans.

Despite all of his accomplishments in the field in what most would consider record time, Guisti claims that he is far from done. He hopes to broaden Brigaid's reach and inspire other chefs to follow in his footsteps by using their skills and expertise to make a positive impact on the world. by creating a brighter, healthier future for schoolchildren across the country, one meal at a time.