Everyone knows that little boys have a huge appetite for life – and lunch, and Julie Windebank has made it her life’s work to satisfy their hunger.
This month, the catering manager at the all-boys Moulsford Preparatory School in Moulsford-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, notches up an impressive 30 years’ service, making her the longest-serving member of the school staff. “I started off as an evening cleaner and worked my way through the ranks,” explains Julie. “I’ve learned on the job and, when my manager left 12 years ago, I took on the position. Julie’s son Daniel also works in the kitchen as a chef with her.
“I love my job. The school is in a beautiful location right by the River Thames and it is such a lovely school.” In that time, Julie has seen the school grow from 127 boys, aged between four and 13, to 360. The school has day pupils and also offers part-boarding, Monday to Thursday, so Julie and her team are required to prepare three meals per day. Morning break includes a freshly baked snack, such as a croissant or crumpet, and lunch is taken by all staff and pupils and always comprises a main cooked dish of the day, plus jacket potatoes, and a ‘made from scratch’ soup. A revamped and refreshed addition to the dining hall is a fantastic salad bar laden with a wide range of cold meats and fish, pulses and salads. “It’s served ambient on a tabletop so the boys can see all around it and help themselves,” explains Julie. “It has been a great success. They never go hungry!”
Fussy eaters are well accommodated and Julie regularly witnesses improved eating habits as the children experiment and try new things. However, not all requests can be fulfilled. “One boy asked for caviar and another for lobster but we don’t quite go that far!” laughs Julie. Themed days are a big hit with the youngsters, the most recent being World Book Day last month, which saw the dining hall transformed for a Mad Hatters Tea Party.
The warmer summer months also offer the opportunity for outside dining. “We have a hog roast machine, barbecues and an outdoor paella pan. One pre-prep child thought we were cooking a lion on the hog roast machine!” Match teas are also hugely popular, with the sports teams tucking in to Country Range Traditional Cornish Pasties and Sausage Rolls after their games, whilst their parents enjoy sandwiches and fresh cakes and scones. Says Julie: “The size of the Country Range Traditional Cornish Pasties i perfect and they have a great flavour. They’re so handy and the boys really enjoy them.”
To minimise food waste, the school runs an innovative weighing
scheme. “We weigh their food waste every day and, if they get under a certain amount each week, they get a treat,” explains Julie. “It’s a great incentive for the boys to try and eat everything on their plate.”