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Education Catering Award: Downham Market Academy Catering Team

9th Apr 2024 - 11:17

Catering at Downham Market Academy has always been provided by an in-house team using their own kitchen facilities. Head chef Jason and senior catering assistant Ali joined an existing team of two (Hayley and Karen) in September 2022 after the previous catering manager and sous chef left the school.

Jason and Ali have considerable experience in running busy kitchens in the military and their high standards, new ideas and customer-focused philosophy have seen the dining experience at Downham Market Academy improve beyond recognition.

The average sales per day increased by +150% from £680 in November 2021 to £1,700 by November 2023. The number of average students served per day increased +115% during the same time period from 260 to 560. The average number of staff served a day rose by +400% from six to 30 during the same period.

Downham Market Academy are particularly pleased that nearly all students entitled to a free school meals do now take up that offer every day. The school is happy as they know that the children have had at least one hot, healthy and nutritious meal each day. The food served is priced to cover the costs and sales do not generate any profit – they want to ensure that the meals are affordable for families.

All meals are prepared on site using fresh ingredients from local suppliers wherever possible. For example, a close working relationship with a local butcher ensures that all meat used in the menus is of the highest quality.

Jason meets with student representatives formally for feedback on the menu and he prepares sample dishes for them to try before they are added to the menu. Jason likes to interact with the students and gain their ideas on what to offer each day and the menu is adapted accordingly.

The catering team now regularly welcome students into the kitchen for work experience, this has included those studying for post-16 qualifications at the local college and also their own GCSE students studying for a hospitality and catering qualification. Jason provides demonstrations and masterclasses on food preparation and running a successful kitchen to students as part of their course.

The catering team prepare a treat for other staff for ‘wellbeing Wednesday’ where everyone can enjoy a tasty savoury or sweet treat in the staff room at break time. These are paid for by the school. The catering team also prepare a choice of hot or cold meals for staff before parents’ evenings and other events that run after school, again paid for by the school.

Diana Turnbull, assistant headteacher at Downham Market Academy, said: “I need to express the importance, the difference, the support, the care, the sheer graft of you both at DMA. Words cannot express the difference you make.”

The catering team have excelled in preparing bespoke meals for various events for both students and staff that include the Year 11 prom and staff Christmas meals.

PSC Alliance