Northumberland game pie, celeriac, potato and rosemary gratin, or roast lamb with mint sauce.
That’s a typical lunchtime menu at Excelsior Academy in Newcastle upon Tyne, which last week won a prestigious food competition for its mouth-watering school dinners.
The school was named Best Public Caterer at the BBC Food and Farming Awards at Birmingham’s NEC.
Described by television chef Jamie Oliver as “the Oscars of the food world”, the awards showcase some of the UK’s most exciting food producers, with categories ranging from Best Takeaway to Best Food Market.
Lyndsey Anderson has been head of catering at Excelsior Academy since the school opened four years ago.
She and her 20-strong team pride themselves on using locally sourced ingredients (including eggs from the school’s own chickens) and cooking balanced, nutritious and fresh meals. They never serve chips or pizzas and meals are always dished up on china plates. Every day head chef Robin Clough and the catering team serve 1,200 meals to students and staff. Only 10 pupils bring in packed lunches, and that’s largely due to their dietary requirements.
“Most of our chefs used to work in hotels or restaurants, so they have the skills to cook good food from scratch and on-site, rather than just reheating pre-prepared meals,” said Ms Anderson.
“It feels great to be recognised for the work we do. This is a very deprived area and 72 per cent of the children have free school meals. For the majority of them this is their only hot meal of the day.
“It’s a real home from home atmosphere and the students are so pleased that we have won this award. We have been getting homemade cards and messages from them all.”
Executive principal Philomena Marshall is hugely proud of the catering team too.
“School dinners have had a bad image for as long as I can remember,” she said. “Jamie Oliver helped to change that and when we opened we were determined to set new standards in providing tasty and nutritious food for our children.
“To win this is beyond our wildest dreams, but thoroughly well deserved.” CAPTION: Top nosh: The Excelsior catering team celebrate their Best Public Caterer award (top). Head of catering Lyndsey Anderson is also pictured (above)