Middle-school critic takes aim at Thurston cafeteria

Noah Rosen, 14, who will be starting culinary studies in high school, polled his fellow tweens on the quality of food on their lunchtime plates.

August 16, 2012|By Joanna Clay
  • Noah Rosen, 14, right, with chef de cuisine Mitch Gillan at 370 Common, Noah's favorite Laguna restaurant.
Noah Rosen, 14, right, with chef de cuisine Mitch Gillan… (DON LEACH, Coastline…)

A young food critic has been stirring the pot with his online reviews.

When Noah Rosen, 14, started in December 2011, he didn't think it would arouse much interest. His first posts evaluated local eateries, such as Sushi Laguna, Ruby's Diner and 370 Common, his favorite.

On April 12, he reviewed his school cafeteria. His criticism was unsparing.

"The dreaded Thurston Middle School cafeteria is a lottery of food failures, flavorless mediocrities and ill-conceived 'balanced' nutrition," he wrote.

Noah posted pictures of a grilled cheese sandwich and a hot dog in aluminum foil bags, as well as a chicken burger topped with bacon and cheese.

"Yeah, my first review was direct and blunt and harsh," he said in a recent interview.

A short while later, he hung a poster at school, advertising his website.

Principal Jenny Salberg, he said, suggested that he remove the review of the school food from his blog, adding that if he did not, the poster would be taken down.


Noah, wanting his poster visible during open house night, complied with the request.

"I wanted that exposure," he said.

The poster was taken down after a usual two-week rotation, the principal said and the student confirmed. Salberg did not wish to comment on the contents on Noah's website.

Noah then sought the thoughts of his peers. After all, he said, they're the ones being served. He polled 56 fellow Thurston Middle School students, a range of students in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades. He posted the results to his blog on June 19.

His peers tried the cafeteria's cheeseburger, chicken burger, popcorn chicken, pasta salad, hot dog, grilled cheese, taquitos and sides. A lunch at Thurston costs $4.50, but will be reduced to $3.90 in the new school year.

"Cheese doesn't taste like cheese, meat tastes like rubber," one student wrote about the cheeseburger.

Regarding the bagged cheese sandwich, a panelist wrote "revolting" in all caps and said it had a "bad oil smell."

"It's really horrible," someone said about the chicken burger. Another concurred: "bacon and cheese were awful."

Not all reviews were negative. A student remarked the hot dog tasted "all right, like any other hot dog," and another said that the popcorn chicken was his or her second favorite item on the menu.

The chicken burger tasted "fine," one reviewer wrote, and two panelists called the taquitos "really good."

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