Case Study: Cucina You're the Chef Competition
Education caterer Cucina Retaurants puts restaurant and hotel background chefs into state school restaurants. Its high-risk business model, can only succeed when uptakes are around 75% to 100% of students eating in schools - which Cucina achieves in all 47 contracts. Last year, two Michelin Star chef Phil Howard said:"In the world of school cooking, Cucina stands out as the beacon of hope. A walk into one of their kitchens will reveal all - local produce, abundance of fresh vegetables, vibrant cooking and plenty of evidence that kids will queue up to get their hungry hands on it all."
Strengthening local communities:
Cucina designed 'You're The Chef' to engage families and friends of 60,000 restaurant customers by developing their own British recipes from local ingredients. School competition winners ate free in their school restaurant for a fortnight and had their dish cooked for the school and printed onto cards alongside those of chefs.School winners were entered into the Grand Final, with recipes judged by two-Michelin Star chef Phil Howard - winner and runner-up received gift vouchers for £100 and signed copies of Phil's cookbook.
Buying from British producers and retailers:
Participating students had to look at their local area, see what ingredients they could obtain, and use them to devise their British dish. This was done through research and talks with school chefs.A major objective was to bring school chef teams and students closer, involving teachers and parents, with winning dishes distributed to the entire school - thus enabling local communities to generate and share new British food ideas.
Educate people about British food and eating local:
Cucina chef Matthew Kent, whose student Megan Stalker created 'Chicken Vegetable Bake' said: "Students have been buzzing. Megan is so excited to have won, and is now looking at other recipes she can create from Northamptonshire produce."Cucina chef Phil Wilkins, whose student Rosie Swan created the runner-up dish 'Berry Sponge Tart', said: "She and her friends are anxiously awaiting the signed copy of Phil's cookbook. Students are talking about recipe ideas - there is an upsurge of interest in cooking, I want to keep it going.
Celebrating the harvest:
Cucina has been building the notion of 'harvest' into its halloween themed events. 'You're The Chef' has been an 'eye-opener', according to Executive Group Chef Andy Wilcock: "This morning, a student asked me if the bread we made at the school came from ingredients far away, or from round here. I'm starting to get questions like this."
Overall winner Peter Bishop in Year 8 at Francis Combe Academy, Watford, presented 'Peter's Roast Beef Bites'. Phil Howard said: "There was fantastic attention to details and great understanding of basic cooking principles." 'You're The Chef' fits well with Cucina's ethos as school restaurateur and educator. Sales have seen a noticeable spike at some Cucina restaurants and it has encouraged communities to look at what is all around them and participate in the food traditions of our country.