My best moments as School Chef of the Year 2017

Hello again, it’s me Tracy Healy – with my final blog post as School Chef of the Year. I just wanted to grab five minutes of your time to tell you about the fantastic year I’ve had in this role.

Reigning as School Chef of the Year 2017 has been one of my proudest achievements. The support I’ve received throughout has been amazing. As well as cooking for all the hungry children at Ravensthorpe Junior School in Dewsbury, I’ve also been travelling up and down the country (and other countries) with lots of different trips and events – spreading the great work catering staff do.

Amazing memories

I couldn’t possibly pick a favourite memory from my year, however, a highlight that I’ll never forget is visiting Germany to work firstly with MKN, a company that makes commercial cooking equipment. With a guided tour of the factory, and getting hands on in their development kitchen with their chefs. And my second day in Germany was spent at Wilhelm Bracke School where half of the 1,400 pupils have school dinners.

I had a great day cooking with the team, ran by a husband and wife who are committed to using local produce and introducing vegetarian and vegan dishes to their menus. I learnt so much from this trip and met some amazing professionals.

My moments all in one

My friends over at Kirklees Council have helped put this short video together to showcase my year – from meeting celebs, to snapshots in airports:

Handing over to Michael 

I was honoured to be part of the judging panel for the School Chef of the Year 2018 competition,  where some really talented candidates battled for the prestigious title.

So I’d like to say a  huge congratulations to this year’s winner Michael Goulston from Peartree Spring Primary School (Hertfordshire) who will pick up where I left off – I hope his year is as amazing as mine has been.

A big thank you

It has been an absolute privilege to represent my school, and the Kirklees Council Catering service with such an award as School Chef of the Year 2017 – I’d like to give a big thank you to everyone who supported me before my reign as top school chef, and during. It has been a year I’ll never forget.

Thanks for reading, Tracy

If you’d like to see Tracy’s full year, you can view her Twitter feed online.

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A taste of life in a Michelin star restaurant

At the end of 2017 I joined many others across the UK to celebrate National School Meals Week (NSMW).

One of the highlights for me was being part of #hostaschoolchef – where school chefs across the county spent time in some of the best restaurants across the UK.

So, i got to swop my day in the school kitchen for a day working at a Michelin star restaurant – Box Tree in Ilkley, West Yorkshire.

Working with the Box Tree chefs was great, it was really interesting to see just how much preparation goes into the food before service. The kitchen had amazing equipment and it was fascinating watching all the different cooking methods to create delicious dishes like these…

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Working in a Michelin star restaurant is a completely different environment from a school kitchen, but there are similarities – we both use locally sourced products where we can to produce freshly cooked food and are passionate about what we serve.

 

Yet again, an amazing experience as part of my time as School Chef of the Year and I have lots more exciting stuff coming up in the last few months of my reign, so watch this space!

Thanks for reading, Tracy

Home made, home grown and healthy

When people think of schools chefs and cooks, they may think that we just cook the school lunch and that’s it, but one of the most rewarding aspects of my job is being involved in teaching pupils where our food comes from, and teaching them how it’s grown and cooked.

In Kirklees schools we provide healthy school meals and food education that has a positive impact on our pupils and the wider community.

At Ravensthorpe Junior School we are lucky enough to have a small vegetable patch where the children can be involved in the planting, growing and eating of our own produce.

At the moment we are growing cabbage and sprouts and the kids love getting their hands dirty and watching their plants grow, and hopefully they’ll enjoy eating them too!

We’ve also been baking fresh bread and scones in school which was lots of fun and a great example of how homemade can be cheap and easy to make.

I’m proud to be part of our effort in Kirklees to promote fresh, home grown, home made and healthy food for life.

Thanks for reading, Tracy

Half way through…

I can’t believe it’s been six months since I won my title of School Chef of the Year 2017 – with so many exciting events and opportunities it’s absolutely flown buy!

The hunt for the 2018 School Chef of the Year is now underway and I’m hoping that my experiences will inspire other school chefs to enter – if you have entered then watch my short video below with some top tips…

 

 

You can also read an interview i did recently with Nestle Professional about how my recent experiences have helped me to grow in confidence and how rewarding it is for me to improve the perception of school meals.

Read the full article here.

Fun at the Great Yorkshire Show

Last month I was invited by BBC Look North to go along to The Great Yorkshire Show, and two lucky children from Ravenshorpe Junior School – Ibrahim and Mozammil – were chosen to join me to learn about rural life and to understand more about where our food comes from.

We had a brilliant day – and even the soggy wet British weather couldn’t dampen our spirits! We were followed by a TV crew from Look North and then featured on the programme that evening.

Have a watch and see what we got up to…

Thanks to BBC Look North for inviting me, yet another amazing opportunity during my reign as LACA School Chef of the Year.

Thanks for reading, Tracy

Loving life in London

Over the last few months I’ve had the privilege of being invited to three prestigious catering awards events in London.  It’s been great to see talented people in my industry being recognised for their talent and professionalism. Being able to take some of my hard working colleagues along made it extra special and the posh hotels and amazing food weren’t bad either!

Here’s what i go up to…

Trip 1

My first trip to London was for the Cost Sector Catering Awards at the Hilton Metropole hotel. I was invited as a guest of LACA and was joined by my colleague Catering Officer Sue Payne.

The awards, which were hosted by comedian Lucy Porter, recognise success across different areas of catering such as care homes, the armed forces, hospitals and universities.

It was a great evening with a gala dinner and dance and we stayed overnight at the hotel.

Trip 2

My second trip was for the Nestle Professional Toque D or Awards lunch at the 5 star Dorchester Hotel in London, I went as a guest of Nestle and took my colleagues Jenny Hiley and Jill Collinson.

This event celebrated the next generation entering the catering industry and awards were presented to the best and brightest catering students and apprentices from across the UK.

We kicked off with a champagne reception and a delicious three course lunch; it was a really good afternoon as it reminded me of my School Chef of the Year competition experience.

And best of all I met celebrity chef Brian and Turner from TV shows such as Ready Stead Cook, This Morning and Saturday Kitchen and James Tanner from TV shows Lorraine and Saturday Kitchen.

Trip 3

My final trip to London was for the Craft Guild of Chefs awards at the Westminster Park Plaza Hotel, once again as a guest of LACA. I took my colleague, Cook Hannah Carter with me as my guest. This also involved an overnight stay in London, giving us chance to do some sightseeing.

The evening started with a drinks reception and then we were treated to an amazing five course dinner with a different wine for each course. The food had to be perfect as they were feeding a room full of fellow chefs!

Once again,  a great evening where we were made to feel very welcome and a great chance to meet other chefs and people from the catering industry.

Thanks very much to LACA and Nestle Professional for inviting me along.

Thanks for reading, Tracy

My day in the school kitchen

I was asked recently to talk about my job as a Catering Supervisor for the Kirklees staff magazine so i thought i’d share the article with you. It gives a bit of insight into the work that goes on in schools to feed pupils across Kirklees.

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How long have you been doing this job?

I have worked at Ravensthorpe Junior School for 7 and a half years.

What did you want to be when you left school? And why did you choose this job?

When I was at school I wanted to be a teacher but  I also enjoyed my part-time job working in a pub and restaurant. I started working for Kirklees catering service when my youngest child started school. The hours fitted in perfectly with a school day and it also meant that I had the school holidays off as well, which is a big bonus when you have young children. I started working as a Customer Service Assistant then progressed to Cook (with all training being provided by Kirklees) before starting my current position as a Catering Supervisor leading a team of four and producing around 270 meals a day.

What are your working hours?

I start work at 7:15am and finish at 2:30pm.

What do you do in a typical day?

My day starts with baking fresh food for the day such as biscuits, flapjack, sponges or muffins. Then I  move onto the main savoury dishes of the day where I could be making Bolognese sauce for lasagnes or cheese and onion pasties as well as making a sauce to go with the pasta or jacket potatoes. Once everything is cooking I deal with food delivery orders that have arrived. At midday I serve the children their lunches and get to chat to the children as much as I can. After lunch I weigh up the ingredients needed for the next day and complete any administration that needs doing.

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What’s the best bit about your job?

I really enjoy my job as I have a great team working with me and I enjoy all the different things my job allows me to do. I like the cooking aspect and I also like chatting to the children and getting to know them.

What’s the most challenging bit about your job?

Keeping the children happy keeps me on my toes! Children can easily change their minds about what they like from day to day so we have to cater to their needs as well as keeping a healthy balance.

What do your family think of what you do?

My family are really supportive of me and the job that I do.

How do you relax after a hard day’s work?

When I have finished work I jump on my bike and go for a ride as it is good exercise and helps me clear my head and relax.

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this job?

I love the job i do but If I didn’t do this job I think I would like to run a small café – i just love feeding people!

Thanks for reading, Tracy

My trip to Germany

Being School Chef of the Year is giving me some amazing opportunities, one of which is to travel and I’ve recently been on a trip to Wolfenbuttelin in Germany.

What did I do there?

My first day was spent with MKN, a company that manufactures commercial cooking equipment. The day kicked off with a guided tour of the factory, it was fascinating to see the kitchen equipment being manufactured and assembled from sheets of stainless steel.

In the afternoon I got hands on in MKN’s development kitchen with their chefs who we’re really friendly and we cooked food on equipment that we’ d seen being made earlier in the day – amazing!

 

My second day was spent at Wilhelm Bracke School where half of the 1400 pupils have school dinners. It was great to meet fellow professionals who are passionate about what they do; the kitchen is run by a husband and wife team who are committed to using local produce and introducing vegetarian and vegan dishes to their menus. I had a really interesting day cooking with the team, finding out about the food they serve and how they do things differently to UK Schools. I took away a lot from the experience and it will help with how we already work in planning our menus and cooking fresh food that’s nutritionally balanced.

So, I had a busy couple of days in Germany. It was a brilliant experience and I learned a lot. Thanks to MKN and the school for inviting me.

Thanks for reading, Tracy

What’s the verdict on our food at Ravensthorpe Junior School?

I’t’s all well and good being voted School Chef of the Year by a panel of judges – but what do the children at Ravensthorpe Junior School think of the food we regularly serve?

Have a listen to what they had to say when asked by Headteacher Mr Parkin…

We work hard at Kirklees Catering service to provide fresh and well balanced meals for the children so it’s great to hear that they enjoy the food we make, and it’s no surprise that they really like the treats. Knowing our food is appreciated gives me a lot of job satisfaction. 🙂

Thanks for reading, Tracy

 

I won! Now what’s in store for my 12 months as School Chef of the year?

Since winning the LACA school chef of the year competition in March 2017 my life has been a bit of a whirlwind! As well as cooking for lots of hungry children at Ravensthorpe Junior School, I also have lots of trips and events coming up during my 12 month reign as the UK’s top school chef.

But, I’m not complaining, it’s all very exciting and an absolute privilege to represent Ravensthorpe Junior School and Kirklees Council Catering service.

The support I’ve had has been fantastic; I’ve been featured in newspapers and trade magazines, on the radio and even on the TV on BBC Look North – not an everyday occurrence for a school cook from Dewsbury!

So, what have I been up to so far?

It’s been business as usual at school and thanks to my colleagues who hold the fort when I’m not there I’ve been able to get out and about.

In March I went to the LACA Yorkshire & Humber Spring Event and AGM in Stratford where I was interviewed on stage as part of the National Seminar programme.

I spent an evening aboard ‘The Pride of Rotterdam’ P&O ferry in Hull at the LACA Yorkshire & Humber Spring Event and AGM. I was there to promote entries for the 2018 School Chef of the Year competition and do some food demonstrations with a representative from Nestle.

Finally, I put on my best frock for the Cost Sector Catering Awards in April at the Hilton London Metropole hotel where I was a guest of LACA and stayed overnight in the capital.

What’s coming up next?

This month i’ll be making another trip to London for the Nestle Toque D’Or Awards Lunch and travelling to Germany to visit a company called MKN to check out the latest innovations in commercial kitchen equipment – all very interesting.

So, all in all I’ve had a busy couple of months. I’ll keep you posted on what I’m up to both in the school kitchen and on my travels so be sure to keep checking my blog for updates.

Thanks for reading, Tracy

Read my next blog to find out about how we’re reducing sugar in Kirklees schools.