We caught up with the McDougalls Young Baking Team 2019 winners following their victory at LACA - plate2planet powered by Bidfood

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We caught up with the McDougalls Young Baking Team 2019 winners following their victory at LACA

Following Woodland’s Primary School’s victory at the annual McDougalls Young Baking Team of the Year final, we spoke to Holly Southeran, the school caterer who led her team to victory with an edible garden showstopper! Pupils Grace (aged 10), Amy (aged 10) and Laura (aged 8) used raspberries, rhubarb, honey and eggs in their dish, all sourced from the local area. Having achieved the highest score in the five years the competition has been running, achieving 196/200, we were keen to hear the story behind the victorious team.

  • How long has Holly been at Woodlands Primary? I’ve been catering for the pupils and staff at Woodland’s Primary School for three years.
  • How many people work in the kitchen? I work alongside four other women.
  • What does her role involve? I am the school caterer at Woodland’s Primary School, supplying the pupils with balanced and delicious school meals.
  • What was the winning dish? Our winning dish was called Woodland’s Garden. We decided we wanted to recreate the open spaces we have here at the school as we’re very lucky to have grassy areas and woodlands which the children love to explore. Our gardens feature stony paths, benches, a wild garden, a pond and a fruit and vegetable garden which we get the children involved in. We used edible ingredients for every aspect so that each element could be made and eaten separately, or mixed up to create something special. From cupcake plant pots to candy floss trees, the children got really creative and it was incredible to see.
  • How important is homemade baking to their menu at the school? We really value homemade baking in our menu at school and all our school dishes are homemade. During the process the children have learnt all sorts, from where different foods come from to the various processes involved in baking. We’ve also tried to teach them the wider skills, including keeping a workstation clean and avoiding food waste.
  • How many baked desserts do they have on the menu? Do these change seasonally? We have a three week rota menu that we change twice a year; our desserts are baked fresh every day.
  • Why do pupils like them? Is it because it reminds them of home? Why is this important for schools? We try to be as imaginative as possible with our desserts, and I think the children enjoy them because of the wide variety that we offer. I think freshly baked food is very important as you know exactly what has gone into them and there are no hidden or unknown ingredients.
  • What baking tips would you give to other chefs/caterers in school? I think the most important thing is to be adventurous and have confidence, don’t be afraid to try new and different combinations. Our students are our best critics as they aren’t afraid to tell you the truth, which we love!
  • What products help you produce homemade baking in school? Fruit is a great addition to a lot of our bakes, it’s a great way to get the pupils to try foods they haven’t had before and each fruit has a different health benefit, it makes our bakes lovely and colourful too!
  • Are chefs now making homemade baking a priority in schools and if so how does this benefit the pupils?  Speaking for my own kitchen, homemade is vital, I know exactly what is in the children’s food. We have a lot of children with allergies so this is incredibly important to us as we try to make the same dishes for all children so no one feels left out.
  • How contributing towards and then winning the competition help/improve the pupils involved? Did it get them excited and enthusiastic about baking?  It helped tremendously with their confidence in and out of the kitchen, I said to the children before we went  to the final how proud of them I was and we already felt like winners as we had made it so far. I think they felt more relaxed on the day because of this and winning was an incredible added bonus!
  • How can you make baking delicious yet still take into account the sugar level, for example? Can you still use traditional products like butter and sugar or do you now use alternatives or is it all about eating in moderation? I think it’s all about balance, some days we make healthier puddings including a lot more fruit, or make a smaller biscuit and add some fresh fruit on the side so they get both. We do replace sugar with honey too. Children definitely eat with their eyes, so we try to take this into account, we’ve experimented with lots of different shapes depending on the dish, and we’ve even turned bananas into dolphins!
  • What about catering for those pupils with allergens? What do you do? We have quite a lot of children with allergens or specific diets, I meet with the parents and discuss our menu and then tailor it to suit the individual but I try to keep their food as close to the main menu as possible, so they don’t feel different to the other children or left out.

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