Times’s Coren reviews school meal

CARSHARLTON BOYS Sports College has received a glowing report from one of the country’s top restaurant critics.


Giles Coren, who reviewed the schools’ lunch meals for his regular feature in the Times magazine on Saturday, rewarded a ‘7.5 out of 10’ for sustainability, an ‘8’ for cooking and a ‘10’ for achievement.


The sustainability audit, carried out by the Sustainable Restaurant Association found “all sorts of free-range, organic and local sourcing, good energy-saving practices and excellent energy-awareness education” he wrote.


He also compared some of the dishes to those found in high street brasseries, but at a fraction of the cost.


“The standout dish for me is the salmon special with chilli and coriander: perfectly cooked, great texture, lively seasoning, with some pretty decent stir-fried vegetables. Totally wouldn’t disgrace a high street brasserie at something like £10.95, but available here for £1.65. The huge, scary head chef, Dave Holdsworth, tells me it costs him £1.60 to put on the plate, which is not going to be much different from that high street brasserie – it’s just a question of mark-ups.”


Coren was invited to the school by Henry Dimbleby who, alongside fellow co-founder of Leon restaurant John Vincent, is compiling an independent School Food Plan for the Government.


LACA national chair Anne Bull said Carsharlton provided an excellent example of what can be achieved when a whole school works together, but it wasn’t alone.


“There is no doubt that Carshalton’s school meals service and its achievements are exemplary, but Giles Goren would find other fine examples of school food provision in many other schools right now,” she explained.


“Each school will, of course, have different operational challenges and issues to address, such as available resources and space, but hundreds will have school chefs like Dave Holdsworth at the Carshalton school.”


The turnaround in Carshalton’s GCSE results also coincided with an increase in school meal uptake.


Coren also spotlighted the hard work and dedication of the headmaster, chefs and staff – as well as the renewed interest the children had in food.


“The great thing the headmaster, Simon Barber, has done here is to tackle his problem head-on,” he wrote. “You can’t run any sort of food business on 20 per cent take-up. So he reduced his prices, hired a chef at a salary that wouldn’t disgrace a top West End restaurant, shortened his menu and accepted losses while he waited for take-up to improve.


“Crucially, he tackled the competition, the junk-food outlets up the road, cutting prices until they were no longer attractive options and driving them out of business, or at least out of the reckoning. And there is no pandering to childish whims – nobody is allowed to have only potatoes, it must be balanced platefuls.”