When I went to school, it was grey vegetables and custard with lumps the size and consistency of cannon balls – school food has come a long way. We all remember the food we were served at school and almost universally, it was neither pleasant nor appetising. For myself, every meal was a vat of unidentifiable meats swimming in fat, normally served with a side of deep-fried chips.
Catering has a direct impact on every facet of campus life.
The UK was considered a culinary backwater; however, over the last couple of decades attitudes have changed. There are now nearly 200 Michelin starred restaurants throughout the country and many of our most famous chefs are household names. How times have changed.
Culinary tastes have also changed. People have become more adventurous with the foods they will try. Seasonality and provenance have real importance in terms of the ingredients available and the local communities their cultivation supports.
But how does this relate to school dining?
Today’s pupils are much more ‘food aware’. The rise in social media has meant new trends; nutritional information and recipes are now in the palm of their hands. Within the boarding school environment, the catering team is a department that they interact with at least three times a day – fuelling their minds for the classroom and their bodies for the sports field. The reality is that catering has a direct impact on every facet of campus life.
Choice for the pupils is key. We […] allow the pupils to make their own informed choices about what goes on their plate.
Over the last two years at Bradfield, we have completely revolutionised the catering output. Our philosophy is, ‘good, seasonal food, done well’. Choice for the pupils is key. We do not serve food but allow the pupils to make their own informed choices about what goes on their plate. We like to challenge with flavour and ingredients. Take breakfast, for example. You will find all of your cooked and continental staples but how about trying some sourdough toast with smoked salmon and avocado, or quinoa with super berries and a honey and mint dressing?
The signature lunch dish is The Pass, our only fully plated restaurant-style dish. Chicken Katsu is a firm favourite and involves a 6am start to bread seven hundred chicken breasts ready for noon. Dinner has a more ‘comfort food vibe’, feeding in to that home from home environment we aim to create. When we do a burger evening, they are always handmade and expertly seasoned.
Bradfield’s pupils are sampling some fantastic dishes made by a team of professional chefs – their dining is supporting local suppliers and the quality of produce is second to none. In a #instafood world, the simple matter is that school food has had to change to meet the customer’s demands – a Ludwig filter cannot disguise a grey cabbage.