The Chefs in Schools charity, which aims to improve children’s health by transforming school meals and food education, has introduced a new school chef qualification as part of their ongoing campaign to raise the standards of school food. The campaign encourages schools to sign up to a School Food Charter, committing to serve freshly made, high quality school meals. Endorsed by celebrities such as Prue Leith and Tom Kerridge, the campaign also aims to recruit more school chefs by prompting those with a passion for food to consider a career in the sector.

Nicole Pisani, co-founder and Executive Chef, says “Currently there is no qualification for school chefs even though they are responsible for feeding hundreds of children a day. This will become the standard school chef qualification and provide the foundation for training school cooks and chefs.”

Called the School Chef Educator Qualification, the pilot scheme, which took place in December 2021 and January this year, was funded by Urban Health. Nicole says “We are reviewing the pilot scheme and seeing how best we can offer the course nation-wide.

The course covers School Food Standards – what they are and how to apply them, computer literacy, nutrition, portion control, how to have a varied meal and how to reduce food waste in the kitchen and dining room. Health and safety, food safety, allergens, food display and food education are also included. Participants undertake 80% of the modules via online tutorials learning and 20% in person. “We think it’s time school chef training is brought into the digital age. The advantage of this is that students can complete lesson materials at a time convenient to them,” comments Nicole

The course also includes a module on how to create a happy team. Nicole says “School chefs and cooks are under enormous pressure feeding hundreds of children in a short period of time, so it’s important they learn how they can keep their equilibrium and remain happy.”

Participants for the course must be nominated by their school or contract caterer and those who successfully complete the course will receive the School Chef Educator certificate.

Operating in tandem with the new qualification is a drive to address the deficit of chefs in the industry with a series of apprenticeships for school leavers. “We need to enhance the role of the school chef and show what career opportunities are available,” says Nicole. “When we get enquiries from chefs, the first step is to arrange for them to spend a day in one of our schools so they can see whether it’s for them.”