Over the holidays I was looking back to my time spent as a school cook. I can't believe that 16 years ago I was serving food (if you could call it that) on flight trays to the children at my school – St Peter’s Primary in East Bridgford. I couldn’t then and still don't understand now why children should eat off these plastic trays when they make food look so unappealing and difficult to eat.
Thankfully, down to the hard work, perseverance and determination of cooks and caterers across the country, school food has improved in leaps and bounds since my days at St Peters. Fresh food has now become the norm and cooks and caterers can and do use their menus to explain where the food comes from and how it is produced.
However, no matter how good the ingredients are, children, like adults eat with their eyes and unless the food is cooked with care and well-presented these positives can be lost.
For a long time now I have been talking about the importance of presentation of serveries, how the dish looks on the plate and how putting too much food in front of children can and does put them off.
I have been working closely with the Soil Association Certification team to address this, and as a result, Catering Mark inspectors will now be asking new questions to ensure that food is not only high quality and ethically sourced, but also looks appetising on a plate. This won’t affect the overall outcome of the inspection but I hope the changes will raise awareness within the sector of the importance of presenting food well.
Find out more about the changes to the Catering Mark here
Tips for making your food look great
- Check that all pupils can see the food on offer, this can be especially difficult for Reception children
- Could you use nice serving dishes instead of Grundy tins?
- How about swapping the fruit bowl for a fresh fruit serving platter, with a range of fruit cut up into easy to eat pieces?
- Think about incorporating different colours into the dishes you serve, I remember having to dish up chicken curry on a yellow flight tray – not good!
- Use school-grown herbs to garnish dishes. Food for Life schools enrolled on the Awards Package can use the Garden Organic growing cards for tips