As we begin expanding into Sheffield and release the results of our 2021 Chefs Survey – which found:

  • 100% of chefs we support would recommend working in a school kitchen to a friend.

  • 96% feeling satisfied, or very satisfied, in their job.

  • 92% experiencing a shift in food culture within their school.

Here are the thoughts from our Chief Executive, Naomi Duncan, on working in school food. Any chefs who want to help fuel the future, please get in touch.

As a small charity with big aims we are constantly evolving and adapting to ensure we can achieve our mission of transforming school food.

To make the magic happen, we’re reliant on an army of chefs that’s steadily growing in number. Working in school food may not be a first choice for a creative chef but it should be – especially if they’re up for a challenge.

School food offers a job with meaning, where you can fuel the future. You can be creative with food, ingredients and menus. You can inspire kids by delivering food education. And forget online reviews, there’s nothing like getting a thank you card from a kid who’s tried and loved your food enough to draw you a big picture saying as much.

But it isn’t always easy. Chefs can feel they take a step forwards by getting a kid to try a new dish one day – and then two steps back the next when something they’ve slaved over ends up in the bin. They may see a teacher eating crisps and chocolate in the canteen, while they’re trying to get kids to take some salad. They may have a team member who wants to keep serving food that’s reheated, not made from scratch.

We have a role to play in helping the chefs overcome these challenges. We will keep assessing how to best support them and respond to issues when they arise.

Part of that is understanding what’s working and what isn’t. We sent a survey out to the school chefs we’ve been supporting, asking for their thoughts. We learned a lot.

Although chefs overall were really positive, we won’t rest on our laurels or ignore those who feel like they need more help to drive culture change in their school. Take a look to see what they had to say and the actions we’re committed to taking.

Over the course of 2021/22, we will:

  • Look at how to provide training and continuous professional development.

  • Formalise a regular check in process with chefs, to ensure they feel supported when things aren’t running smoothly

  • Continue to refine and hone our programmes to ensure every school that we engage with is fully on board with the need to shift food culture

Working in the school food world can be challenging for chefs, but it can also be rewarding. These survey results give us lots to build on.

We’re always here to listen – if you have thoughts about what could work in school food, please get in touch. And don’t forget, we’re a charity, if you want to support our work, you can donate.