It’s been on the go for a year now, the catering kitchen at Nybo School in the municipality of Tibro. All part of the changeover from cook-chill to freshly cooked in Tibro schools.
“There has been a tremendous response from the pupils,” Niclas Saxius, unit manager, tells us. “We had 35 more pupils eating on the first day we started serving meals cooked on the premises. And this trend has continued.”
For Conny Bjurman, meals manager in Tibro, keeping costs down wasn’t reason enough to continue with centralised cooking. Along with Svante Andrén, head of the department of civil administration and a coordinating consultant, Conny assessed what a changeover from a centralised kitchen to catering kitchens in schools and pre-schools would involve.
“We focus on quality, choice and economy,” says Conny. “Alterations turned out more expensive than we had calculated but we are serving food of high quality and we have more guests and better pleased guests.”
“I enjoy my work more now, absolutely,” says Birgitta, meals assistant in Nybo school kitchen. “Since the alterations we have more space for our salad buffet and I have a free hand. It’s such fun to think up something new like a different salad. Now we are on our toes for a few hours every day.”
Anna is on her way out to serve the first guests of the day.
“You know, I work in a number of kitchens, at Häggetorp it’s really lovely, with new machines, and the premises painted and decorated. It makes a huge difference and you can see it affects the pupils. They are always very open and say exactly what they think - and we very seldom hear any complaints. The pupils are very friendly and polite and usually talk to the staff.”
“We are continually developing and improving the food we cook and serve. We buy in high quality fresh, vacuum-packed fish. Saithe, whiting both go like hot cakes here. The pupils were a little on their guard to start with, when they tried new fish dishes with crusty toppings and fresh garlic. Now they wolf it down,” says Niclas proudly.
Niclas has been involved in this project from start to finish. Previously a chef in the central kitchen, he is now in charge of Nybo School’s kitchen and dining hall. The pupils all know Niclas and stop to chat. For instance Attoraya, the cool boy whose eyes light up when he sees what’s on the menu today.
“The best ever. Spinach and eggs.” He agrees to be photographed, with his tray in his hands.
Pontus and Albin in grade 9 like the school meals too. They play handball and hockey and know that good food and proper meals give them the right kind of energy.
“Spinach is good too,” grins Pontus and nods at Viktor’s plate – full to the brim with halved eggs and very, very little spinach soup. Viktor and Niclas have a lot to say about the kitchen’s delicacies:
“The food tastes better now, it’s much fresher. Fish and meat stews are what’s best. Like fried fish with yoghurt sauce or mayonnaise with pickles. The salad buffet is much better than it used to be, we’ve much more to choose from. All kinds of salad are good. Like, everything’s good.”
Quality will pay for itself, as the saying goes. More pupils eating school meals and eating altogether more, is an investment in future health. This is something the Tibro school meals service has taken to heart. And at the same time they have made working with school meals more rewarding and have increased creativity in the school kitchens. From cook-chill to home cooking close to the guests has proved a resounding success.
“The first day we started cooking we made chicken, potato gratin and dessert. We had to celebrate and make something special,” says Birgitta as she hurries out to start serving.