Jennifer Crusco
Communications Assistant

Professional Chef Brings Fresh, Healthy Choices to AHA

Demarest, NJ: Delectable, visually appealing, healthy food prepared by a professional chef is now available at the Academy of the Holy Angels thanks to the school’s new partnership with Aladdin (an Elior Company), a forward-thinking food service provider.

“We educate the whole person, and we want to support our students with good nutrition,” AHA President Melinda Hanlon explained. “We’re also responding to our students, who come to us with more aware palates. As part of the ‘food court culture,’ they want options. Aladdin is providing high quality, healthy, fresh food at very fair pricing.”

Chef Russell Ash is the driving force behind AHA’s new chef manager food service model, which is the first independent campus school dining program in New Jersey. Aladdin serves nutritional breakfasts, lunches, and afterschool fare under Chef Russell’s direction.

This high-energy professional has been sharing his culinary talents at hotels, country clubs, and corporate dining facilities for three decades. He is a graduate of Johnson & Wales University and holds an Associate Degree in Culinary Arts and a Bachelor’s Degree in Food Service Management.

Chef Russell’s love for cooking began at home.

“My mom cooked, and I helped her in the kitchen,” he said of his early experience. “Later, I worked in restaurants as a kid, and have been doing so ever since.”
The chef is ready to inspire students at AHA. Plans for a Culinary Club are reportedly in the works, and the group may start meeting in 2017, according to Candace Hogan, Business Development Director for Aladdin.

“We’re really thrilled to be here,” Hogan said of the new alliance between AHA and Elior-North America, which she said is one of the top five dining service companies in the country.

“For over 40 years, Aladdin has been creating campus dining programs throughout the United States. Elior’s program is customized to satisfy the communities we serve. We utilize fresh ingredients, purchase locally, and have a strong organizational commitment to sustainability. We believe in being good stewards of the earth and our clients’ resources,” she added.

Aladdin’s food service includes gluten-free options and menu items that safely satisfy the appetites of those with various food allergies.

Students, faculty, and staff are already providing favorable reviews.

Angels Jenna and Hanora were pleased to see a lot more choices for lunch.  Both students were enjoying wraps crafted from spinach tortillas, Swiss cheese, lettuce and tomato, and a choice of tuna, turkey, chicken, or vegetables. They also selected potato chips and large chocolate chip cookies made with coated candies.

Jenna was delighted that the setup and flow were so efficient.

“It (the service) was very quick,” Hanora agreed. “It looks like a well-run machine.”

Jenna added, “My friend e-mailed me the menu. It looks interesting and diverse.” She said she is looking forward to trying the fajitas and other Mexican fare.
One group of incoming Angels readily agreed that, based on their first meal at AHA, they would buy lunch at the school again in the future.

Staff members enjoyed freshly prepared salads, grilled chicken breast with Caribbean salsa, paella-style rice, and string beans studded with cherry tomatoes. The chicken dish was artfully presented with a slice of starfruit.

In keeping with the school’s dedication to sustainability, the food was served on recyclable paper plates.

This appears to be the start of a very healthy partnership.

Since 1879, The Academy of the Holy Angels, sponsored by the School Sisters of Notre Dame, has been educating young women from all religious backgrounds in a rigorous, college-preparatory program located on a college-like campus. AHA is a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence and a National Service Learning Leader School that empowers young women to lead in academics, arts, athletics, spirituality, and service. For more information, visit



Academy of the Holy Angels

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Demarest, NJ 07627

Phone: 201.768.7822

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