National award win for school cook

A school development chef whose pioneering recipes have improved meals for thousands of pupils has won a prestigious national award.

Training and development officer, Katherine Breckon, has won the APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group) Excellence in School Food Award for the best individual during a presentation ceremony at the Oulton Hall Hotel in Leeds.

The All Party Parliamentary Group Excellence in School Awards 2023/24 recognise excellence in innovation, individual commitment and provide an opportunity for those working within the school food sector a chance to step forward and shine.

The three categories for this year’s awards were groups, individuals and schools.

Katherine is a key member of NYES Catering providing healthy, tasty and nutritious meals to more than half of the schools in North Yorkshire, with the aim of bringing enjoyment to school lunchtimes with local, fresh, great quality food being at the heart of everything she does.

She develops meals and menus in-line with food trends and food standards, always looking at opportunities to create tasty meals, while reducing food waste and recipe costs. An overhaul of school meals recipes was one of Katherine’s latest projects.

Local school chef Katherine Breckon

Executive member for education, learning and skills, Cllr Annabel Wilkinson, said: “Congratulations to Kath, this is fantastic news. Kath’s recipes are always very well received and have inspired pupils to try foods they wouldn’t normally have chosen to taste.

“This award not only acknowledges our catering teams’ hard work, but also recognises the power school chefs can have to help shape future generations’ connection to food.”

Mother-of-two Katherine joined our catering service 15 years ago having previously worked as a school cook at West Cliff Primary in Whitby.

Speaking of her win, the Whitby resident: “I am totally blown away, it is such an incredible honour to be named the winner of such a prestigious award.

“Due to high food costs, the demand for increasing meal numbers and the development of school meals in constantly challenged on both a local and national level. As a service we have not only seen an increase in food costs, but also the amount of special dietary requirements which pupils have and an increase in pupils who are free school meals entitled - all of which has created the need to ensure we cater for as many pupils as reasonably practicable.

“Whilst looking at ways to reduce costs in our recipes, I used this opportunity to also reduce the amount of allergens present, add food waste reduction tips, and simplify recipes too. This is something that school catering staff have really appreciated.”

Quality manager Joanne Simpson added: “I’m delighted for Kath, she has an unbelievable passion for our school meal service. The award is well-deserved, a show of appreciation for all that Kath has done and continues to contribute to for the children who enjoy daily tasty, nutritious school lunches.”