Case Study 1 – Recruiting a new team
Headteacher Samantha Palin, left, with chefs Jake Taylor, centre, and Sam Riches, right, at Woodmansterne School in south London. Photograph: Phil Fisk / The Observer.
“It’s more than the food on a plate, it’s the education that comes with it. By the time pupils leave at 18, you want them to know how to keep themselves healthy, but also keep their brain engaged.”
Samantha Palin, Headteacher.
In 2019, we started working with Woodmansterne School, an all-through school in southwest London. Their contracted food provision served frozen, beige food. Food waste levels were high, children were unhappy and parents were complaining.
After a few teething problems – we helped the school find Head Chefs – Jacob and Sam. They had previously run a street food business and were looking for a more meaningful career. We provided support and training to help Sam and Jacob make the transition to the school setting. They have now trained their team and encouraged them to contribute their own recipes to the menu, for example – Naomi’s jollof rice is a huge hit with the kids. They also push boundaries, serving scallops, clams and oysters as an optional extra for Fish Friday.
Jacob and Sam are also transforming the food education on offer. They’ve run courses on setting up street food business – this required business planning, marketing, menu design and pitching to industry – great experiences for the students. Renowned chefs have been on site, cooking up school lunches with pupils and doing Q&As. The team also installed a food smoker and a koji lab – where science and food combine. Their ambitions are limitless.
Next, they hope to open the first Michelin-starred restaurant in a school. Watch this space!
Case Study 2 – Training an existing team
When a standalone primary school, like Smallwood, in Tooting, with around 300 pupils, wants to transform their lunch offer, we carry out a skills and structure audit, spend time with the kitchen team, assess what training they’ve had and if they need additional staff. We then develop an intensive training plan.
The kitchen team at Smallwood were keen to cook all meals themselves but needed training to make it happen. For two weeks, our chef trainers worked alongside the team, helping them to create and cook new menus. They now have access to our recipes, and suppliers who support us, and they know they can always call if help is needed.
Head Chef Emandy says: “We used to serve everything and anything, but it was mostly processed and frozen food. We had baked beans in tins, now we cook them from scratch. And take Fridays, Friday is fish day, so before it would come frozen, but now it’s fresh fish and we make it with flour and breadcrumbs. We had training before but nothing in-depth like this.”
When we recently visited to see how they were getting along, a fresh batch of school-made ketchup was bubbling on the hob and Head Chef Emandy was mixing together her secret blend of spices for that day’s lunch of jerk chicken. Pupils popped in with a bowl of vegetables they’d picked from the school veg patch.
Emandy is glad her school decided to do things differently.
“I want all schools to have great catering because then the kids are eating more healthily,” Emandy said. “Kids eat with their eyes and their nose, so if we start from a young age exposing them to all sorts of good food, we are giving them a good start in life.”