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Sunday Morning / Jane Pauley
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March 31, 2019 10:42 am

CBS Sunday Morning

Sunday Morning / Jane Pauley

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March 31, 2019 10:42 am

Let's re-do lunch; Biomimicry: Turning to nature for technological solutions; 

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It's the simple question school kids ask every day with great trepidation. What's for lunch? Cafeteria meals have never been very popular with kids, as you may recall, but now one of the most renowned chefs on the planet is trying to win them over.

Nancy Giles will report our cover story. It's called school food. Like, that's weird. Like, it should just be food. Right. Today, Dan Giusti is serving third graders, but his last job was in Copenhagen at the undisputed pinnacle of the gourmet universe. Needless to say, his departure stunned foodies everywhere. You're the head chef of Noma.

Yeah. Why don't you ever leave that? Why one of the best chefs in the world decided to feed school kids? That's later on Sunday Morning. And more, all coming up when our Sunday Morning podcast continues. What's for lunch? Countless school children gazing at the mystery meat on their trays have asked that question with a fair amount of dread. Now comes a chef with a blue ribbon reputation determined to change the menu for the better.

Our cover story is from Nancy Giles. It's lunch time at Winthrop Elementary in New London, Connecticut, and these kids are hungry. They could eat pasta or tuna or something a little more exotic. Have you ever had the hummus that we serve? The man behind the hummus, a nutritious Middle Eastern dip, is 34-year-old Dan Giusti.

He's the tall one. Give the hummus a try. He founded and runs Brigade, a company that's revolutionizing cafeteria cuisine. There's a problem with school food in general because this idea that the kids don't deserve high quality, which obviously they do.

If anybody, they're a captive audience, and they're our kids. If anybody deserves the best food that we can give them, it's them because they have no choice. No more processed food or mystery meat for these kids. Brigade hires trained chefs to make high quality school lunches from scratch. How Dan Giusti ended up in this cafeteria is quite a story. The fact that I was the head chef at Noma is the reason that has opened up a lot of doors for me.

That's right. Dan Giusti's last job was at what many consider the best restaurant in the world, Noma in Copenhagen. Talk to me about fine dining and about Noma. It's a small restaurant.

Sure. 45 seats, is that right? 45 seats, yeah. What was like an average?

Two people. You were paying $1,000. For a meal. After working at Noma for three years, Giusti decided he wanted to do something, well, bigger. I knew I wanted to feed more people.

That was the big thing. I wanted to make food with real purpose that really contributed to something. So in 2015, he announced he was leaving Noma to fix America's school lunches, stunning the food world. You're the head chef of Noma. Yeah.

Why the **** would you ever leave that? Yes. Foodies may have been flummoxed, but Giusti had found his calling. It's called school food.

Like, that's weird. Like, it should just be food. Right. A lot of the food that is served in a school would never be served anywhere else. Right.

And that's the unfortunate fact. New London now benefits from a technique he picked up at Noma. Who's going to eat hummus here today?

Anyone? The power of the personal touch. If you don't like it, then you just know you don't like it. But if you like it, now you have something new to eat for your whole life. So it's brigade policy that their chefs talk to the students about the food. If food comes to you and you don't really have a face to put to it, it's just food. When there's, okay, well, you know, Chef West made this. It's like, ah, you like that person, therefore the food has more meaning to it. What have you learned about the kind of food you're eating? That it's actually fresh. It's not from a box.

It's made from scratch. Isn't that nice? Sometimes I want to go up for seconds.

Do they allow seconds? No. Do you like the food here?

I love it. But kids can be picky eaters, and they don't always love it. It's a whole different thing cooking for kids. It is.

No, no, it is. And then like one time we had this butternut squash soup and it had coconut milk in it and ginger. It was delicious. It was really tasty. And I remember this kid, I went to this kid, he was eating it, and he just spits it out. Oh, man.

I was like, okay. Lucky for New London, Manuel Rivera isn't picky, but he is choosy. If we can't eat it, we shouldn't serve it to our kids. Rivera was the school superintendent who hired Dan Giusti in 2016 to cook for New London's 3,500 school kids. Some folks thought he was wasting tax dollars. We had one comment, I think it was, boy, the next thing you know, Rivera will be getting limousines for the students. Compared to what you were spending with the prior food service companies, I will tell you the cost is zero to New London public school taxpayers.

Almost sold out. Thanks to fundraising efforts like Brigade's popular weekly community dinner and generous corporate and private grants, New London's taxpayers still haven't been hit. But cost, and what the federal school lunch program will reimburse New London is an issue. It's around $3.50 a meal, which doesn't sound so bad, but... That's actually for maintenance, that's for paying people to make the food. So when it's all said and done, you have about a dollar and a quarter for food.

Making food a meal that kids really want to eat for $1.25 is super challenging. These are literally some of the best chefs in the country. Last spring, Dan Giusti invited a dozen star chefs up to New London to compete in a fundraiser. This is Mei-Lynn, those of you familiar with the show, Top Chef, she won it. And see what kind of meal they could create for a buck and a quarter.

They came from LA, San Francisco, Chicago, New York City, and Washington, DC. James Beard winner Jeremiah Langhorne. So how much does a meal cost at your restaurant? Uh, it depends on what you get, but, I mean, easily, you know. Well, Jeremiah, do you have anything at your restaurant that's $1.25? No.

Chef Jeremy Fox was more optimistic. What's the average price of a meal at your restaurant? $75 to $80 per person. Whoa. So how do you plan to... It's with wine. Okay, a wine.

These kids aren't going to drink nearly as much wine as the adults. I'm making the seasoning right now. Knowing that the winning meals could end up on the brigade menu, the chefs didn't let their budget limit their imagination. They whipped up chicken tacos, fudamaki rolls, tofu lasagna, Monte Cristo sandwiches, 10 meals in all. Okay, all right. Then the chefs delivered the food. The fish is addict, it's in season with herbs, lemon juice. All right.

Enjoy, guys. A panel of New London students. I think this one would win for me. And out of town adults were the judges. It's a good taco. I know. Yes, I was a judge too and had to eat a little. All right.

A lot of everything. And pick a winner. You're just going to have to give me one. Just got to go with it.

You got to do it. That winner was Ghetto Gastro of the Bronx. Ghetto Gastro. Ghetto Gastro. With a Caribbean fish sandwich, hardly what you'd expect kids to eat, willingly. Fish is one of those things that's kind of hard to approach to children. You know what I mean?

Just the smell. But, you know, I think we wanted to take a challenge, you know, and show them that, yo, this could be really delicious. And their secret ingredient, the power of the personal touch.

Not to say that the other chefs aren't charismatic, but they put extra effort. They sure did. They put extra, and they told me, they're smart. They're like, we're going to sell this to the kids.

I'm like, you knew who to talk to. And now, Dan Giusti and Brigade are expanding to the largest school district in the country, New York City's, starting here at Morris High School in the Bronx. Once more, Dan Giusti is thinking big.

There's 1,800 schools in New York City. But, I mean, the goal is to get everywhere. To me, my dream is in 10 years that things are just different. That it is normal to do what we do. This is good, right here. For all our reliance on human ingenuity, a number of scientists and engineers are learning design secrets that might be best described as second nature.

Faith Salie shows what we mean. Blink and you'll miss it. The frog tongue is incredibly fast. It can reach accelerations up to 12 times the acceleration of gravity.

To put that into perspective, astronauts going up into space experience two to three times the acceleration of gravity. To catch a glimpse of a frog tongue in action, you have to be pretty sharp, or determined, both of which might describe Alexis Noel, a bioengineer at Georgia Tech University. So you can imagine these extreme accelerations that are happening to the insect as it's being yanked back into the mouth.

And yet this adhesive on the tongue is still able to maintain a grip. Noel's research into that sticky stuff, frog saliva, began when she stumbled across a video that had gone viral. And I actually ran across this really funny video of this bullfrog trying to eat insects off of an iPhone screen. Of course, they're fake insects and they're scrolling down the screen.

We thought it was hilarious. And so we started asking these questions like, how is this frog tongue so fast and so sticky? And like, how does it catch these insects in the blink of an eye? Being a mechanical engineer and dabbling in fluid mechanics, we're like, oh, this is a really interesting adhesive question. Noel hopes that understanding the mechanics of frog saliva could lead to the development of futuristic adhesives. And if that seems far-fetched, then welcome to the world of biomimicry. Where scientists look to nature for innovations. The shape of Japan's bullet train, for instance, was inspired by the shape of a kingfisher's beak.

These windmill blades were modeled after the fins of a humpback whale. But the most ubiquitous biologically inspired innovation of all might be in your closet. In 1941, Swiss engineer Georges de Mestral went for a hike in the Alps and noticed the way burrs adhered to his clothing.

Today, the hook-and-loop fastening system most of us call Velcro is used in thousands of products. It's actually a new way of inventing. And so chemists and designers and architects and engineers, when they have a problem, they ask, what in nature has already solved this problem? If there's one person to thank for the popularity of biomimicry, it would be Janine Benyus. You know, the core idea is that life's been on Earth 3.8 billion years. And that's a lot of R&D.

Benyus popularized the term two decades ago in her book. You know, NFL helmets are based on how the woodpecker's skull... What? Yeah, the woodpecker has the skull.

What? Yeah, the woodpecker has a very particular skull. Just spend some time with her at her home in Montana, and you get the sense nature has taught her to see the world a little differently. When I look at a tree, I think now that it's pretty amazing chemistry operation going on, right, silently. Once you start thinking this way, you realize that nature is full of technologies.

If you think of technologies as just tools for living. But while the scientific field might be new, there's nothing new about being inspired by nature. We need new ideas, you know. And what you're saying is the newest ideas are the oldest ideas. That's, you know... And they've been there all along.

Exactly. By one estimate, biologically inspired innovations could contribute $425 billion to the country's gross domestic product by 2030. Can you put porcupine quills in your face?

Yeah, as an example, I mean, what we like to do from time to time, some self-experimentation, and really get a sense for, you know, what it is that we're working with. It was porcupine quills that pointed scientist Jeff Karp towards a new design for a medical staple. So it was known at the time that quills have these backwards-facing barbs.

When you try to remove the quill, the barb catches on the tissue fibers, catches on the tissue fibers, and then kind of displays out to the side, so it's even grabbing even more. And that's where it gets its incredible gripping force. And so this gave us inspiration for a new staple. At his lab in Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital, Karp is creating new medical devices using some old technology. Very old technology. Slug slime was a starting point for a medical glue that works in wet environments. This is incredibly strong.

It's holding bone together. The way jellyfish tentacles fan out to ensnare plankton inspired a filter to capture cancer cells in blood. There's literally, you know, hundreds of millions of years of research and development that's happening all around us. And if a creature or a plant is not able to come up with a solution, then it becomes extinct. And so, in essence, we're surrounded by solutions, which I see as ideas for solving problems. Can our technologies be as elegant and as graceful as those in the natural world? And if we hold ourselves to that standard, if we literally take the natural world as our standard, it really ups our game.

I mean, it's something to aspire to, but it already exists. I'm Jane Pauley. Thank you for listening.

And please join us again next Sunday morning. This is Intelligence Matters with former acting director of the CIA, Michael Morell. Bridge Colby is co-founder and principal of the Marathon Initiative, a project focused on developing strategies to prepare the United States for an era of sustained great power competition. The United States put our mind to something we can usually figure it out. What people are saying and what we kind of know analytically and empirically is our strategic situation, our military situation is not being matched up with what we're doing. Follow Intelligence Matters wherever you get your podcasts.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-27 12:33:31 / 2023-01-27 12:43:31 / 10

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