Whether tackling environmental issues or gaining inspiration to get through difficult times such as the recent pandemic, voices of children and young adults are loud, strong and cutting through the noise. Many children now stand shoulder to shoulder with adults on key issues, and in a number of instances, are taking a leading role.

It is this very same generation who are predicted to aid the recovery of the hospitality sector as you slowly unfurl your menus and open your doors, because they are less fearful of COVID-19 and more likely to resume social activities.

With schools and universities reopening this September we continue to see the education sector adapt and overcome the challenges of catering for students, so this month’s Melting Pot spotlight is focused on children and young adults. Join us as we gain inspiration from chefs, caterers and business owners throughout the industry on how to best serve this market.

STU DEELEY Winner of Masterchef: The Professionals & Head Chef, Antona at Home – I cook what I like to eat and my inspiration comes from the big flavours of takeaways and street food such as Thai green bisque or smoked soy cured salmon which are popular with young people. Whilst my dishes are grounded in classic techniques I like to think outside the box and create combinations that might not have been thought of before, some of my favourite combinations are white chocolate and miso delice and dill pickled kholrabi. I believe this inventiveness will appeal to young people who like to try new things. With many eating less meat or cutting out meat altogether, I always put the same care and attention into creating delicious vegan and vegetarian dishes too. Great presentation is also important as it lends itself well to social media.

KIM HARTLEY Business Development Chef, Mission Foods – Providing exciting options is crucial to maintain positive student engagement. Wraps and other flatbreads are perfect to make your menus inspirational. With the current street food market now being worth an estimated £1.2 billion in the UK1, education caterers have the opportunity to tap into this growing trend to provide something a little different for students. Street food within educational environments is a great way of interacting with students and providing them with something new to add excitement to their day. It doesn’t necessarily have to be complicated and difficult to prepare recipes; it can be as simple as adding a tortilla, pitta or naan with a well-loved Chilli Con Carne or chicken dish to make an on the go street food-inspired alternative.

TOMMY MIZEN Founder, DASH – We wanted to create a brand that would appeal to a younger audience, encouraging them to explore a more plant-based lifestyle without compromising on flavour and textures. We have created meals that are inexpensive as well as nutritious and environmentally conscious. Our packaging is recyclable or biodegradable which can help draw in younger people as they move toward being more sustainable. In addition, our exterior has now been fitted so that nobody should feel intimidated ordering as everything can be done contact-free without even setting foot on our premises.

TARRYN GORRE Founder, Kafoodle – Here at Kafoodle we work closely within the education sector. We think the younger generation is more aware of not only what is in their food but also what healthy eating means, and are pleased to see this topic will be on the school curriculum from September. With this in mind, businesses can appeal to young adult diners by allowing them access to food information whether it’s ingredients, provenance or nutrition information. Schools and catering companies can harness innovative tech to create healthier menus, to increase the amount of fibre in dishes, incorporate more fruit and vegetables, lower salt and saturated fat content, as well as developing options to suit individual dietary requirements.

MARYANNE HALL Food & Cookery Manager, Viva! – As concerns for the environment, animal welfare and public health continue to grow, veganism has now become mainstream and young people are spearheading this change. A report by GlobalData found that 44% of children say they try to eat less meat, dairy and eggs, but almost a quarter (23%) claim they regularly go hungry at school because of the lack of vegetarian and vegan options available. A new YouGov poll also showed that 55% of students would like to see more plant-based options in their canteens. It’s never been easier to be vegan and it’s never been so important for food providers to offer great plant-based options. It’s very easy to make small changes to existing dishes/ menus to create delicious vegan options.

RIZVI KHALEQUE Founder, Tuk Tuk Indian Street Food – We are a BYOB (Bring your own beer) restaurant which helps our customers manage their overall spend. We provide a laid-back Indian street food experience where customers get to choose a few dishes per person so they can share and eat together. Young adults are often well travelled and our brand is something they can relate to, making it easier for us to come up with new dishes and environments they have been exposed to on their travels.  Last year we built our Tuk Tuk app so customers can order in a very efficient and flexible way. We have also just launched our own curry kit because we have seen a growth in young adults indulging in cooking at home and it is a market we want to grow.