“I am delighted that we will be partnering with Love British Food for British Food Fortnight, an annual event which does so much to help people enjoy the diverse food of Britain. In its pursuit of true excellence, the work of Love British Food ties in so well with our own drive to make school food the best it can be. We have some exciting initiatives planned for this year's event and we are looking forward to a long and fruitful partnership in the years to come.” - Steve Quinn, Founder
Cucina was founded in 2006 on a simple vision: ‘to make school food the best it can be’. You could also also say that it was about proving that Jamie Oliver's original vision for school food could work, given the right approach.
This is what Cucina has achieved today, presenting wide choices of restaurant standard food to staff and students in 47 UK state secondary schools and academies. This is healthy, inventive and attractive food, served in formats that young people know, recognise and like, and it's cooked from scratch each day, on site, by high calibre chef teams.
From that single contract in 2006 where sales went from £100 to £800 on the very first day of operation, Cucina has succeeded in pushing the boundaries of school food further than anyone, demonstrating in the process the sheer excellence that it is possible to create.
A high risk strategy
Cucina's success comes from a high-risk business strategy where quality, provenance and choice of food is never compromised. Putting highly trained well-paid chefs into schools, upgrading kitchens and buying only the best of fresh ingredients involves significant outlay. Business success depends on high concomitant costs being offset by higher sales. This is what has happened in every new Cucina contract, with sales regularly doubled, tripled and sometimes even quadrupled.
More than just school catering
Cucina's school restaurants open at 7am each morning for breakfast and remain open through the day, providing students with a range of healthy after-school snacks to eat in or take away.
Cucina is also involved in hospitality catering, special events and activities in its partner schools' wider communities. Cucina works hard at educational partnership in each of its schools, helping to develop and grow school gardens and allotments and becoming involved in the school's broader food education curriculum.
Since its founding in 2006, Cucina's drive to become its own supplier has been ongoing. Already, Cucina bakes its own bread, makes all of its own sauces and grows many of its vegetables, herbs and fruit. Cucina's Directors are planning a farm purchase so that Cucina can rear its own meat and poultry.
Mark Cartwright, one of Cucina's three roving Executive Chefs, is also known within the company as The Grower.
In this role he spends around half of his working week visiting chefs and staff at Cucina's kitchens across the UK, working with Cucina teams, clients and school students to nurture enthusiasm for the planting and growing of produce and encouraging students to grow their own herbs, fruit and vegetables for consumption in their own school restaurants. In this role he is a grower in a broader sense too, growing the relationships that help forge stronger educational ties between catering and teaching teams.