Holroyd Howe is a British, owner-led, independent business specialising in independent school catering in the UK. Operating in 100 schools and colleges, providing fresh food, catering for all age groups, from pre-prep to sixth form, Founder, Nick Howe is passionate about food, developing people and encouraging an entrepreneurial spirit. As a result, the company has invested in Chef Academy, a culinary development programme for emerging talent within their business.
Matt Potts, head chef at More House School, has been a student of Holroyd Howe’s Chef Academy since January. “The academy has given me the confidence, passion and skills to make a difference at my school,” he says, “and on the back of this I came up with the Cooking For Life and Half Measures concepts. Both are currently underway at More House School and will be rolled out nationally by Holroyd Howe. I recently left my part-time position as a lecturer and NVQ assessor for Surrey County Council. Despite thoroughly enjoying the role, I wanted to pursue my passion at More House to develop and run two new initiatives alongside the demonstrations and lessons I deliver to the younger pupils.”
Half Measures – the creation of menus and dishes using half the sugar content of the normal recipe – was launched by Matt Potts at More House School this term. Holroyd Howe takes its responsibility to feed independent minds very seriously and this is just another step in working closely with schools to tackle childhood obesity, without taking the fun out of food and still offering variety.
“I do not think of it in terms of ‘saving’ but ‘avoiding’ pupils consuming 18-20kg of sugar weekly; the saving grace is that pupils haven’t even noticed! These ‘savings’ have come from our recipes alone – we have increased our selection of homemade cereals and taken away the sugary bought-in varieties. When putting together information on our Half Measures concept, I was shocked to find Special K has the same sugar content as Coco Pops – it is just marketed differently.”
Matt is even getting pupils to eat their greens – even if they don’t know it. “By putting green leafy vegetables in our popular pasta sauces, we are instantly increasing the vegetable intake of our pupils and the nutritional benefits of even the simplest dish,” he says.
Cooking for Life
Cooking for Life began as an afterschool cookery club for boarders at More House School in June. “I have become increasingly frustrated that children are leaving school with no basic cooking skills, perhaps one of the most important life skills,” says Matt. “My big eye-opener came when teaching pupils how to make chocolate cake – one boy was tapping a raw egg and trying to peel it like you would with a hardboiled egg. I asked him what he was doing and he told me he had not cracked an egg before. He was 16.”
Holroyd Howe are grabbing the reins with this, with Matt acting as campaign leader and ambassador for the company. “I take eight to ten pupils each Tuesday evening,’ he explains, “issue them with their own protective equipment and have a bank of carefully thought-out recipes including a balance of sweet and savoury dishes. I vary the preparation methods and cooking techniques for maximum exposure to train pupils in some of the life skills they need.”
Michelin chef and restaurateur John Campbell works with Holroyd Howe’s Chef Academy. He has taken a personal interest in Matt’s work and been impressed with what he has seen so far: “Matt’s drive and determination for such a wonderful game-changing initiative is a clear example of how you can make a difference to young people, if you have the desire and will – changing people’s lives with this healthy initiative gets my vote.”
These initiatives were highlighted and explained in detail to Ofsted inspectors by the school’s deputy head during a recent visit (the school received the grade ‘outstanding’, a rare award with Ofsted’s newly implemented extra high standards). The inspectors were clearly impressed with these activities. Sarah Secker-Barker, assistant to the headmaster of More House School, says: “The pupils are getting a huge amount from Cooking for Life. If they have no cookery skills and are trekking off to university, it is our responsibility to instil basic cooking skills – a skill set outside of academia. They enjoy being able to eat, taste and feel the end results, which are very tangible. I have posted photos on Facebook of the dishes prepared – parents love the foodie updates!”