We had a fantastic lunch at Esher High School and the chance to speak to the catering staff, teachers and students. The food looked great - the presentation was excellent. Seeing chefs in their whites made a great impression. The open plan design of the kitchen meant you could see for yourself how the food was being prepared. Having 2 sittings meant that although the hall was busy the students didn't have to queue for too long. Seeing teachers queue up to eat is a great sign that the food is good. Teachers we spoke to were very enthusiastic about the service and believed it was part of the schools responsibility to encourage children to stop and eat a good lunch. One of the deputy heads who has a PE background pointed out that it is crucial children understand food and it's impact on the body. He uses food to teach many different aspects of the curiculum. Recently the school held spanish lessons in the dining room with the spanish teacher describing in spanish as the Chef Scott prepared a spanish omelette.
Talking with Cucina MD Steve Quinn was a breath of fresh air. Without belittling the complex challenges that face school caterers it is all too easy to fall into doom and gloom. However Steve resists the temptation and concentrates on key areas where he can make a difference to childrens diet and health.
By raising the standard of the cooking - Cucina employ chefs, and presenting the food beautifully they are able to persuade children to sit down and enjoy a meal. They have an entrepeneurial spirit that means they look for opportunities to create new markets so they supply freshly cooked food to breakfast and after school clubs. Because it is Wimbledon fortnight they are doing a strawberry promotion so they take to the field and playground to sell strawberry kebabs to those kids who didn't make it into the dining room. After school they sell their own home made fruit juice lollies to kids as they leave school.
The food tasted great and the hall though a bit noisy was clean and well decorated with school council choosing the design. It is an indication of how well respected students at Esher High are because the corporate design Cucina came up with was over ruled by student council in favour of their own blue and white design.
The partnership and good relationship between the caterers and the school is evident. This really is good practice at its best and I would urge anyone looking for inspiration for their own school dinners to come and have a look. The excellent work they have done deserves to be recognised.
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