A new lunch offering, international evenings and cooking in Chef’s kitchen are all initiatives Pocklington School pupils have been enjoying since the refurbishment of the School dining hall last September.
The Head of Hospitality and Catering, Paul Freeman-Hacker, joined the School in Michaelmas term last year and has introduced a brand-new menu and food offering as well as changing how food is procured, produced and presented. As set out in the new Food Charter, the catering team take pride in producing balanced meals that are not only delicious and healthy, but also fresh and from local providers. When children enter the dining hall they are greeted by a daily choice of freshly prepared soup, main courses, pasta sauces, desserts and a vibrant salad bar, with speciality breads.
Lunch is as important as any meal, not just for fuelling hungry bodies and minds but also for relaxing, socialising and downtime before the afternoon activities begin. The catering team make use of any opportunity to bring a bit of fun to the dining hall, including the celebration of several ‘special dates’ in the calendar. World Book Day saw the dining hall transformed into a scene from ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, a chocolate milk river and waterfalls, chocolate fountains, Wonka bars…and more! There has been more than a subtle nod to the National Saints’ Days too, as the dining hall turned several shades of green to celebrate St Patrick’s Day as the catering team served a lime flavoured drink in a green drinkable river from a pot of gold. More recently for St George’s Day, the hall was bedecked in the Saint’s red and white flag, which was carried through to the menu too.
Pocklington School welcomes boarders from around the world and although the curriculum is British, its perspective is global and this includes the catering provision. The boarding community comprises of students from many different countries including those from Spain, Germany, Switzerland, China, Hong Kong, Egypt and Eritrea, who have worked alongside the catering team to host International Suppers this year. The international students suggested traditional national dishes and produced a soundtrack of authentic music native to their country. For each supper, the dining hall was decorated with the particular national flag, and napkins depicting the flag colours and other key novelties, which represented the nation being celebrated. The boarders have enjoyed these evenings, not only for the authentic dishes provided but also as an opportunity to expand their culinary palate, try different foods and learn about different cultures and traditions. For example, during the celebrations for the Chinese New Year, all the Dolman House boarders ate with chopsticks after an impromptu lesson from one of the pupils from China.
Paul Freeman-Hacker is passionate about the quality and provenance of food and firmly believes that food and education can work hand-in-hand. He is often seen in the dining hall surrounded by children from Prep School, as he delivers a teaching session that links an aspect of food and nutrition to the curriculum topic being studied. Recently, Year 5 Prep School pupils were learning about refugees so were invited into the school kitchen to make Za’atar Manaqish, a traditional bread popular in the Levant. As Paul says: “Learning should be fun and it’s always good to be able to eat the products of the lesson!” Food education does not stop with the pupils either as once a half term, all pupils and staff are challenged to ‘try something new’ at the Food Detective Tasting Table. Who knew celeriac could taste so good and be so versatile, presented as celeriac crisps, purée, crudités and cake?
Enquiry, creativity and reflection are three of the core values embedded in the life at Pocklington School; it is heartening to see that this is followed through to the dining hall too.