NEW school dinners inspired by a TV competition winning chef winner have gone down a treat with pupils.
A healthier and tastier menu for at Rudheath Senior Academy has been designed by Harry Marquart, who won the Irish culinary TV show Head Chef in 2011.
The idea is to cut down on giving students processed food and bringing catering in house, offering freshly cooked meals each day using locally sourced produce as much as possible.
Changes were made following the school joining the North West Academies Trust (NWAT) and the new menu has been welcomed by pupils who say that the school dinners have vastly improved compared to how they used to be.
So to find out what the fuss is about, Guardian reporter Nathan Okell visited the school to speak with Harry and pupils about how the menu change has been received.
“When I took over control of the menu, I was tasked with bringing the school dinner catering in house rather than corporate,” said Harry.
“This was after I spoke with NWAT CEO Steve Docking about improving the quality of the school meal system back in 2015.
“Although I have no background in school catering, my goal is to provide good quality meals to the pupils using good quality ingredients.”
By changing up the menu, Harry has also been able to introduce pupils to foods they would not normally try, including cuisines from Spain and Germany.
“There is no need to be nervous about trying new food, as it is part and parcel of life,” he added.
“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 menu, I have tried to make the meals similar to what you would have at home and not to taste like you would expect school dinners to.”
It is all well and good, however, to bring about changes to make meals healthier, but if they fail to strike a chord with pupils, they will not end up buying them.
But this is not something Harry and the school’s catering staff have to worry about, as the meals have gone down a treat with the Year 11 pupils we spoke to.
They had experienced the meals before and after Harry came in, and they say that the new menu is a big improvement on what it once was.
“The dinners are a lot nicer, tastier and you can see the food being freshly made and prepared in the kitchen,” said Lewis.
Year 11 pupil Grace also praised the new menu, adding: “The food is really good quality and it’s great that the ingredients are fresh and not processed.”
“Compared to before, the dinners are much better and because the food it all made on site, you know what you are getting and you know it is good,” commented Alex.
And further approval was given by Katherine, who added: “As the meals are a lot better and fresher, you look forward to and get excited for dinner time.”
Speaking about the school dinner changes, headteacher Ana Roslan said: “I have to say, after 20 years in teaching I have never tasted such great school dinners.
“It is fantastic to see our students so enthusiastic about healthy eating.”
Steve Docking, CEO of NWAT, added: “We first started working with Harry four years ago when we were looking for a local 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.”
Top: Harry Marquart with the catering team and pupils
Middle: Pupils Lewis, Grace, Alex and Katherine with reporter Nathan Okell
Below: Pupils Harry, Grace, Alex and Katherine sample the dinners