An inspirational start to the school year

I must admit that back in September I was slightly concerned about the timing of our Phil Howard ‘Cucina British Classics’ range for British Food Fortnight, mainly because it was asking so much of teams who already had so much to do.

With seven new openings as well as 42 existing contracts, it was shaping up as a busy time, and now we were asking our chefs to prepare and present an extra range of Michelin Star signature dishes over a fortnight.

I really needn’t have been concerned. The whole thing was absolutely fantastic and the promotion had a huge impact on our business, as shown in the hundreds of pictures and messages that have been shared from around our contracts.

For all of our teams it was such a thrill to be recreating the recipes of one of the world’s most highly regarded chefs. And they certainly communicated that excitement by adding a touch of magic to their counters, with truly vibrant and attractive displays.

Even though, as you’d expect, not every client had heard of our foodie hero Phil Howard, it is true to say he’d had an impact on them by the end of this special fortnight. Michelin Star food is the gold standard of dining excellence, and here we had 50,000 students experiencing this kind of quality first hand.

The other thing this underlines for me is the phrase ‘restaurant standard food in schools.’ That’s how we’ve always described what we provide, because, well, that’s exactly what it is and that’s what it has been, from day one. This is also why the Phil Howard British Classics promotion was such a natural thing for us to do.

As you probably know, we also provided recipe cards for each of the ten classics. When Phil developed the range for us, he rose to the enormous challenge of working within a budget of £1 per dish. For the Chef Patron of one of London’s top restaurants this was a quite a departure! It is also why, for the recipe cards, we invited him to present fuller, restaurant versions of the dishes.

Students and teachers then took these cards home so that they could try Phil’s recipes in their own kitchens, for their own families. This is one of the things that excites me most about this whole project – the potential impact of bringing British food of this quality into the lives of 50,000 school students and their families.

So when we say we’re educators, not just cooks, we mean it. We’re doing far more than selling young people meals here. We’re opening up new worlds and letting them see what is possible. You can’t always measure that, but you can certainly feel its impact.

It is true to say that working with Phil Howard has energised and envigorated us all. It was so pleasing to hear him on the radio, speaking with such enthusiasm about his work with us: “The most impressive thing about Cucina is that they transform the eating habits of kids in every school that they go to.”

While we’ll certainly look to continue our relationship with Phil, I think it’s also time to celebrate the talent we have within our existing chef team through a special cookbook which features their own signature dishes. This will be yet another exciting initiative, so watch out for more updates on this one!

With best wishes,

Sam Davies

Director of Food, Cucina

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