North Yorkshire’s head school cook leads the way

This story was published 1 April 2022

A chef who trains school kitchen staff across North Yorkshire, is determined to get as many pupils in the county as possible sharing a freshly cooked meal each day.

Kath Brecon with school chef Sharon Morrison showing the salad dip platter at Thirsk School

Kath Breckon is passionate about good food for children.

As schools get back into full swing following the Covid pandemic, the school chef trainer is working hard to ensure that as many pupils as possible will share a freshly cooked nutritious school meal and is working with her cooks to bring that about.

As part of the training, she helps her chefs find many different ways of encouraging families to take up school meals for their children and for children to try different foods and menus.

Kath, who is a fully qualified chef, worked as a school cook for nine years before taking up her current role. During that time she became LACA School Chef of the Year - the school food body.  She is the only front-line school worker to sit on the LACA board. She was also Educating Excellence Primary School Chef of the Year.

While school cook at West Cliff Primary School Whitby, she took the business of children sharing and learning about food and where food comes from to an entirely new level.

She arranged for her school children to go out on a Whitby fishing boat so they could take part in catching fish, accompanied by a chef from the famous Magpie seafood restaurant. The Magpie chef then helped the children prepare and cook the fish once back in school.

The West Cliff Headteacher took on board the importance of making meal times attractive and turned the school hall into an American diner complete with juke box playing Buddy Holly and Elvis.  Kath introduced many taster sessions to get the children to try different foods and gave out rewards for when they tried different meals.

She said: “Nothing can be more important than getting children to have a healthy meal and we go all out to make mealtimes enjoyable.

“For some of our children it is the only meal they will get so we also train our school chefs to engage with children and to make sure they are eating well.

“We cook our food fresh across North Yorkshire and our cooks, who become qualified chefs, go through all the nutrition and allergen training. They all know how critical a healthy meal is in the middle of the school day.”

Before the Covid pandemic, chefs in some of North Yorkshire’s schools would hold family cooking sessions to get children, parents and grandparents cooking and sharing meals together.

Kath is hoping that her school chefs can get back to starting some of those initiatives again.

She said: “When they start their training many of our school cooks are surprised that the food is all freshly cooked and much of it locally supplied but they soon realise that our training is to a very high standard.  I am passionate that children get good food when they are at school and our chefs soon share the enthusiasm.

“Many of them go above and beyond to encourage children to eat healthily and to enjoy the variety of meals offer.  As the cost of living rises and family budgets are squeezed, what can be more important than ensuring children have the chance of at least one nutritious meal a day.”

Find out more on our school meals page.