The daily meals on offer to pupils at Croydon’s St Giles Primary on Pampisford Road must be unrecognisable from the over-boiled cabbage and dry spotted dick (stop giggling at the back) that was the stuff usually dished up for school dinners in the past.
For the second time in four years, St Giles’s school cook Sharon Taylor made it through the London regional final of the School Chef of the Year competition, which was staged at Croydon College at the end of last month. And while Taylor did not win, just making it into the top eight of all the school cooks from across the capital for a second time demonstrates the consistent high quality of her work.
With national nutritional standards imposed, school dinners these days have not only to meet those requirements, but also offer high street flavours and themes for the children. Free school meals come into force for all infant pupils from September, too, and the schools, catering providers and school chefs are gearing up for this major implementation.
Organised by the Lead Association for Catering in Education, contestants had to cook a main course and dessert suitable for an 11-year-old, and spending no more than £1.60 per child on the whole meal. Taylor’s dishes were Peruvian chicken, served with rice and tomato ceviche, and Matchu Pitchu chocolate pots.
We’re unsure whether the competition was conducted on an entirely level playing field over costs: one of Taylor’s rivals offered Hunter’s pie that included “locally sourced venison”. For school dinners? That school cook works in Richmond, so maybe the deer herd in the park is missing a hind or two…
On the judging panel for the competition sponsored by Maggi, was a local professional chef and two 11-year-old pupils, Ronaldo Baker and Kayleigh Harding, from Whitehorse Manor School, as well as an education catering expert and a leading dietitian.
According to one of the organisers, “The standard was incredibly high with exceptional professional skill and culinary creativity on display. It was one of our toughest regional finals, as it was the largest with a total of eight contestants on the day.”
Coming to Croydon
- Meet Boris Johnson, Selsdon Halls, Mar 11
- Upper Norwood Library Book Club, Mar 15
- Norwood Society talk, Upper Norwood Library, Mar 20
- South Norwood Lakes Playground group workshop, Mar 25
- David Lean Cinema: Basically Johnny Moped, Mar 27-28
- Croydon Half-marathon, Mar 30
- David Lean Cinema: 12 Years a Slave, Apr 3
- David Lean Cinema: The Great Beauty, Apr 10
- David Lean Cinema: Inside Llewyn Davis, Apr 17
- Opening of Marlpit Lane bowling and putting greens, Apr 17
- Arts and Crafts Market, Exchange Square, Apr 19
- David Lean Cinema: Short Term, Apr 24
- Crystal Palace Overground Festival, June 26-29
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