Delamere Academy

Celebrity chef inspired festive feast for schoolchildren 

Crispy roast potatoes, al-dente sprouts, perfect pigs in blankets and lashings of tasty gravy served up by a Masterchef winner sounds like a Michelin Star scenario…

But for some children, it’s just school dinner!

Pupils at North West Academies Trust (NWAT) schools have been enjoying top-notch lunches, thanks to Irish Masterchef winner Harry Marquart.

The restauranteur was been drafted in to devise a healthier and tastier menu for children at Weaverham Primary Academy, Oak View Academy (Winsford), Delamere Academy, near Northwich, and Rudheath Senior Academy.

His tasty menu goes down a storm, and now the annual Christmas dinner has proved a mouthwatering success.

Harry, who won the Irish culinary talent show in 2011, explained: “The secret is to make school dinners taste like they would a home.

“So for Christmas, which is a lovely day for children and staff, we try to put a bit of magic into it.

“We are getting a bit of a name for ourselves over the roast potatoes.

“The secret is to blanch them, dry in the fridge overnight and roast really slowly, which gives the proper golden brown.

“Pigs in blankets are always a winner and we are very careful not to overcook the sprouts, so they go down pretty well too!”

Harry has been cooking at Oak View and Delamere for several years, but took over the running of kitchens at Weaverham and Rudheath when they joined NWAT last year.

He explained: “I spoke with CEO Steve Docking about improving the quality of the school meal system back in 2015.

“Although I had no background in school catering, my goal was to provide good quality meals to the pupils using good quality ingredients.

“By changing up the menu, I was able to introduce pupils to new tastes, such as foods from Spain and Germany.

“There is no need to be nervous about trying new food, as it is part and parcel of life.

“School is the best place to try new foods and there is no harm in not liking something, just as long as you give it a try.

“With the menus, I try to make the meals similar to what you would have at home and not to taste like you would expect school dinners to.”

Mr Docking added: “We first started working with Harry when we were looking for a specialist chef to support existing staff at Delamere Academy.

“His healthy meals were so popular, we decided to roll it out to other schools in the Trust.

“We often invite parents into the Trust’s schools for lunch and it is always good to see their surprised faces when they try them.”