With a raft of awards under his belt, Steven Cross has been head chef at Park Community School for 7 years. The latest accolade, Public Sector Catering Chef of the Year 2020, is a testament to the vision of the school and the forward-thinking chef’s passion to redefine school meals and integrate the school into the community.
“I’ve always been interested in cooking and food,” explained Cross, “I’m a classically trained chef and have worked in AA Rosette and Michelin star restaurants throughout my career. 7 years ago, I came across this role, head chef at Park Community School. I met with the headteacher, Christopher Anders, and was completely sold on his vision and plans for the school and especially the ideas he had for doing school food differently; running a farm, growing our own vegetables, orchards, bee hives etc. We are a school for our community and we support our students and their families with fresh, healthy meals as well as offering a more vocational approach to education. The school is run as a viable commercial operation, we cater for events for up to 450 people, run the Tea Room at the Coach House and we operate three mobile catering units. It’s a big job!”
At around the same time Cross won the Public Sector Catering Chef of the Year Award, Welbilt launched the new Convotherm maxx, and Paul Patel, business development manager at Welbilt UK, headed over to Park Community School to demonstrate the new combi oven and its impressive benefits for a busy kitchen.
Cross described his initial impressions of the maxx: “We’ve had the Convotherm maxx in the kitchen for a few months now and it’s a real workhorse with some superb features. We have the 10:10 and it takes 11 trays, brilliant! The lighting is really great as we can clearly see what’s being cooked, and we use the Crisp & Tasty function a lot; but my personal favourite is the cleaning. ConvoClean is just amazing, push a button and off it goes; easy, fast and thorough. We’ve also got some pre-programmed recipes and have just started to use this function. I can already see how this is going to be great for us and for any school catering operation, it just takes out all the hassle of cooking those recipes that we make regularly.”
With the school at the heart of the community it is not just breakfast, break and lunch service for the 950 pupils that Cross has to schedule in: “We cater for weddings, school holiday kids club, Connect for Families and our Munch Pantry, which is a subscription-based service for families where they can access a freshly cooked hot dinner. As such, we have a lot to do and a lot of planning, so equipment that can help us with all of our catering is important.
“For an oven of its size, the Convotherm maxx certainly does pack in a lot of technology and features that are really useful in a busy kitchen like ours, and not least is the timer alarm – it’s loud and can be heard above the general clatter of a busy kitchen, which is actually very important, so that the food we serve is perfectly cooked, every time.”