An award-winning school chef says that embracing the latest equipment has completely transformed the way that its kitchen is managed and resulted in huge gains in efficiency.
Woodlands Primary School in Formby is building a reputation for the quality of its food thanks to head chef Holly Charnock, winner of the LACA School Chef of the Year in 2020.
She is devoted to providing top quality, healthy food to her pupils and has been looking for ways to speed up the cooking process without compromising on the quality of the results.
Despite being a very creative cook, she was being held back by the dated kitchen that the school had in place.
“The old equipment was really showing its age, it was difficult to get consistent results and it was tougher and tougher to find spare parts when they broke down,” she explained.
The school began working with catering equipment distributor Caterware to fully modernise its kitchen. One of the most significant additions to the revamped facility was the introduction of multifunctional appliances.
She opted for a Rational iCombi Pro 10-1/1 and iVario Pro 2-S, which she says has saved it significant space and accelerated cooking times. Vegetables used to take 30 minutes in the old steamer, but now take a matter of minutes, allowing staff to serve them as freshly as possible.
It also makes preparing more complex dishes much easier. Charnock can sear all the chicken in five minutes, and cook the sauce and vegetables in 10 minutes.
“Preparing chicken curry the old way, you’d need at least three pans on the stove to sear the chicken, not to mention boiling other ingredients.
“When I used to make Scouse, it would have to be put on at 8 in the morning and it would only just be ready at 11.30. The iVario can cook it in just 50 minutes, with the meat just melting in the mouth.”
“We’ve got all our meals programmed in, so at the touch of a button any member of staff can start something cooking and not have to worry about checking them and moving them about in the oven to make sure they’re all cooking evenly.
“What’s more, it’s a lot cooler in the kitchen now as we don’t have to have two big ranges, a convection oven and a steamer operating all the time, it’s a more pleasant environment to work in.”
The new equipment is fully connected, making it easier to update and add recipes as well as providing full operating data, including HACCP.
Charnock says the brigade is only just scratching the surface of what’s possible with the new equipment.
“When we changed over, I made the decision to keep a grill, deep fat fryers and one range because I wasn’t sure we’d be able to manage without them – but after three months of using Rational they haven’t even been turned on!”