Our biggest challenge now – to keep it all going

It’s interesting that that since my recent appearance on Channel 4’s Dispatches programme, I’ve had a few comments and questions about why I talk so much about the quality of school food.

Without wanting to sound in any way conceited, we really don’t need to be pushing any more school food frontiers at this stage – we did all that quite a while ago and I believe that the quality of the food we serve now is unmatched in our industry.

Our biggest challenge these days is to keep everything going during a period of steady growth for the company. Getting Masterchef’s Ash Mair to help develop our new menus was a wonderful way to add strength to what continues to work so well for us. (We’re in the process of engaging another of Britain’s finest Michelin-starred chefs, too – watch this space).

Thanks to a highly evolved business model, an excellent management structure and an absolutely inspirational bunch of chefs, we’re showing what happens when kids get the opportunity to choose restaurant standard food.

In short, they want it and they like it. So they keep on buying it.

More and more kids decide that their school restaurant is where they want to eat. So that turns into dramatically improved returns for our clients and healthy growth for our company.

This is how an unflinching adherence to high restaurant standards becomes a ‘win/win/win’.

So what is it with all the things you read about nutritional standards, dreadful food in today’s schools and so on?

My little bit on Channel 4’s ‘Dispatches’ programme was a trimmed-down version of all that I said  on the subject, but the main point I made was that the guidelines themselves are in need of a thorough overhaul. For example, you can serve kids sausages that are only 50% meat – and still be within the guidelines. We choose not to do that, because ‘quality’ is what Cucina will always be known for.

Meanwhile, back to our work with Masterchef Ash which took place around a month ago.

It’s always a challenge when two different cultures or approaches meet. Ash’s normal style is to agree on what is to be developed and then do the work in his own kitchen.

So asking him to come and work with a whole team of chefs was a bit out of his comfort zone. I could see that, but let me tell you, he responded magnificently – as did our own boys and girls.

Ash had the opportunity to go through our existing menus and it was so obvious that he was impressed to realise that this is the kind of food that our young customers get to eat each school day.

In the course of the 2 days working with Ash Mair, we ended up with 8 dishes out of 14 that are definitely going onto our menus. I’ve posted these below, for your perusal.

Just a few days after we’d developed these menus we served them to our Executive Chef Guild along with some of our clients and everyone was blown away. I’m confident these items are going to be a huge winner with our young customers.

Till next time,

Cucina’s ‘Ash Mair Signature Range’ of dishes:

1.   North Korean Roast Shredded Lamb Wrap with Chick Pea and Carrot Salad with Mint Zataar Yoghurt
2.   Korean BBQ Pork Wrap with Kim Chi pickled vegetables
3.   Hot Smoked Salmon, Baby Potato, Mange-Tout and Watercress Salad with Lemon and Dill Sour Cream Dressing
4.   Chicken and Mango Salad with Sweet Soy and Sesame Dressing
5.   Paella Salad
6.   Peri-Peri Chicken
7.   Pineapple, Coconut and Lime Muffins
8.   Build your own Udon Noodle Soup

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