One of the things I appreciated most about ‘Jamie’s School Dinners’ when it first appeared on TV, was the fact that it didn’t patronise or talk down to kids. Instead, it proved something I’ve always known – that if you put the right things in place, young people will be motivated to choose good, healthy food.
But note, the ‘right things in place’. That’s the crucial bit, and so often the stumbling block, too. Because if you don’t have the investment of effort and resources needed to do things properly, the whole Jamie Oliver message will fall in a heap, as we’ve seen time after time.
Any organisation that is serious about taking up Jamie’s challenge must rethink what it understands by the term ‘school dinners’. For me, school catering has always been about serving quality, affordable restaurant food to customers – whatever age those customers might be. And the only way to meet and maintain high standards like this is to make sure there is a talented, creative chef in charge of each and every kitchen.
Just recently our guys have been demonstrating how creative and talented they really are! Andy Wilcock, one of our head chefs carried away a silver at the recent Culinary World Cup, then teamed up with Ian Morgan (Executive Head Chef) and Daniel Boniface (Group Chef, Cambridge) to win triple gold medals in the blue-ribbon Salon Culinaire event. In all, they took 3 Gold Medals, 2 Silvers, 2 Bronze and 2 Best in Class – against the best cooking talent the world has to offer.
I’m not really one for crowing too much, but when our guys pitch themselves against the best chefs in the industry like this – and then come out on top – it gives people a bit of a clue about the quality of food our customers are eating every single school day.