Steven Cross, Head Chef, Park Community School

It’s no easy feat feeding one thousand pupils and 200 staff in a typical school lunch hour – let alone during a pandemic – but Head Chef, Steven Cross is doing that.

“The school stayed open throughout lockdown to support key workers and vulnerable pupils. The team was reduced but we maintained the same menus to make sure children were well fed.”

With a Michelin background and a CV that boasts 22 years of culinary experience including a stint at Buckingham Palace, the multi award-winning Chef joined the Havant based school six years ago.

“Moving from a restaurant to a school was a big learning curve, especially adapting to meet school food guidelines but I had a vision about what a school menu could be like. Fresh, local and nutritious.

“Early on, it was obvious the traditional dishes we all grew up with didn’t have a huge amount of appeal with pupils. Fish & Chips on a Friday or a roast dinner are always popular, but we focus on more contemporary options inspired by the high street and food trends.”

With the pupils treated to street food favourites including Korean Pulled Pork Bao Buns and Kimchi wraps the right rice has always been important.

“It is essential pupils have balanced and nutritional meals. They enjoy rice-based dishes such as Jambalaya, vegetable biryani and salads but they don’t like brown rice. Tilda has always stayed in touch, they’re a supportive and exciting supplier. When they came to me about their Tilda Brown & White mix I was impressed with the quality and the nutrients. Plus, you’re not scaring children off with brown rice!”

Working with specialist and local suppliers, as well as using seasonal and organic produce, Steven’s menu is an exciting culinary journey of flavours inspired by Korean, Thai, Japanese and Mexican cuisine. So it’s unsurprising the passionate chef has been recognised for his dedication, winning industry accolades from LACA School Chef of the Year, Public Sector Catering and EDUcatering.

“It’s the restaurant chef in me. Quality is everything and making sure the children have a good, hot meal. Tilda is a quality product, it’s premium and very easy to use. It just works for my menu and what we’re cooking.”

And as the new school year brings new Covid challenges how has the menu had to change?

“Even now that service has changed, it’s never been an option not to serve hot meals, they’re so important. We’ve had to adapt like everyone, service starts at 8.30am with breakfast and then continues with break times and lunch. Prior to Covid, we had two sittings and now there are four with the pupils in year group bubbles. It’s challenging but we’re making it work.”

Bursting with wholegrain goodness and recommended by the School Food Standards, Tilda’s Brown & White combines 50:50 mix of wholegrain and white rice, bringing together the health benefits of wholegrain with the taste, ease of cooking and popularity of white rice.

By cooking with Tilda’s Brown & White, chefs and caterers will also be supporting Mary’s Meals through Tilda’s charitable partnership. For every 5kg bag of Tilda’s Brown & White sold, a meal is donated to a child in need through the valuable work of Mary’s Meals around the world.

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