When senior students made a special request last week, the school kitchen staff happily obliged.
“Our Year 13s came to me and told me their favourite meal we produce at lunch is Japanese chicken katsu curry and could I PLEASE make sure it is on the menu for their last day,” says head chef and catering manager Mr Chris Warner.
So of course, it was on the menu, making the students’ last lunch a memorable one.
Term four has been phenomenally busy for the kitchen, which on a normal school day serves more than 1600 top-quality portioned meals, including breakfasts, hot lunches, evening meals, morning and afternoon teas and suppers.
“These are the number of plates that fall across the servery each day, just in standard student meals, alone. On top of this, there are additional catering requirements from all over the school and external community, especially in term four," says the school’s Business Manager Peter Welham.
“During the school holidays for instance we hire out our school facilities and there may be six rugby teams staying in the boarding houses and the kitchen has to supply breakfast, lunch and dinner. So, it never stops basically.”
The catering calendar is packed with term four events and special occasions, like sports and cultural awards dinners, prefect dinner, end of year House dinners, prize givings, an open day, funerals, community events and staff farewell functions.
As well as providing an excellent service, kitchen staff form special bonds with students and are ‘quite tearful’, saying goodbye,” says Mr Warner.
“We are absolutely blessed to have these folk in the kitchen,” says Mr Welham. Honestly, they are brilliant.”
The school used to outsource catering until it was all brought in-house, about 7 years ago.
“And what that did was make the kitchen staff feel much more engaged with the school, part of the school, and loyal to the school.”
The staffing includes five chefs, a trainee chef, general catering assistants, and two students helping with kitchen tasks for an hour at each meal.
“I would say our kitchen would probably be one of the best school kitchens in the country.”
Mr Welham says it is important for the students’ wellbeing to have good food, to make them feel well-nourished.
There are also the social benefits of sharing meals.
“All the members of staff have lunch provided as well, and that is also a good opportunity for staff to sit around and talk to each other.”
“It is an incredible job they do and a vital part of what we do here at the school. The interaction between the staff and the students in the kitchen during these times is amazing. There is always a bit of banter between the two and it just adds to the friendly atmosphere.”
So, what do the students enjoy the most? Having worked in the school kitchen for nearly 16 years Mr Warner has a fairly good idea.
“The year 9s and the year 10s enjoy food like nachos, spaghetti bolognese and cottage pies. Things that they can relate to that remind them of home.”
“Moving to Years 11, 12 and 13 they are a little bit more adventurous, they like spicy curries, beef rendangs, and their taste is a little bit more developed.”
In the first three weeks of term four, the school catering team has:
* Cooked and served 24,509 student and staff meals
* Cooked and served 2845 function meals
* Set up 16 venues for functions
* Roasted and carved 509 Kg of Angus Beef scotch fillet
* Cooked 410 kg of chicken thighs
* Cooked 1780 portions of chocolate fudge brownie.