You’ll find an interview with our Executive Head Chef in the April edition of Feast magazine – the fabulous guide to food and drink in Norfolk. Below is a copy of the interview, which reveals how much thought goes into the food offering at Langley, and we think you’ll really enjoy the read.
1. Who are you and where do you work?
I am Joe Campen, the Executive Head Chef at Langley School, and I cover both of our campuses – the Prep School at Taverham Hall and our Senior School at Langley Park in Loddon.
2. What are the positives of working in a school?
We’re proud that here we offer our staff a really good work/life balance and sociable hours, this has been a big draw for the qualified chefs we have recruited from the catering industry. We are also committed to upskilling our staff and, as a result, every chef across both our sites now holds catering qualifications. I see our role here as more than just feeding pupils – we are in the perfect position to educate them to make good choices and eat well for life.
3. How many pupils and staff do you have to cater for each day?
We have almost 500 pupils at the Senior School and more than 350 at the Prep School, plus around 300 staff across both sites. For our Senior School boarding community, we also cater for breakfast and dinner so, as you can imagine, we are always busy!
4. How do you get pupils to try different foods?
I’m passionate about encouraging pupils to eat a rainbow-coloured variety of food, to make sure they get as many of the vital vitamins, minerals and nutrients as possible, supporting their growth, learning and a healthy lifestyle. Our pupils are great at trying new dishes and getting involved in our monthly pupil-led themed days, including Chinese Street Food, Indian, Mexican, African, American, Spanish and Scottish themes.
5. How do you keep things healthy?
We spend more each week on fruit and vegetables than we do on meat, and try to combine as many vegetables into our main dishes as possible. For example, we use more than 20kg of carrots, onions, tomatoes and garlic in our bolognaise sauce, we grate apples into our sausage roll mix, and our curries contain lots of pureed vegetables. We offer sugar-free options such as our Greek style yoghurt that we make on site and our homemade muesli. We have also reduced our sugar usage by 50% in all our homemade desserts.
6. Have you seen a rise in vegetarianism and veganism – and how do you ensure pupils still get all the nutrients they need?
We have seen vegetarian dishes growing in popularity – we offer two vegetarian choices at each meal, including a vegan choice, and our extensive salad bars also offer vegetarian choices, including dishes like homemade quiche and stuffed peppers. From the salad bar pupils and staff can also select two proteins, and help themselves to as many salads and raw vegetables as they like, which provides a good intake of varied nutrients.
7. What dish is most popular with pupils?
Our homemade curries are very popular and we introduce a new one each term, so we have had them from all over the world. The Thai green curry made with fresh lemon grass, ginger and lots of fresh coriander is a favourite, and our Omani Thareed served with flat breads has an amazing depth of flavour. A firm favourite on Friday fish day is the ‘side of salmon with herb crust’ – I tell the younger pupils it’s just a huge fish finger!
8. Is food technology/home economics on the curriculum? And how important do you think it is?
We have a Food Preparation and Nutrition department, which puts on brilliant things like ‘Cooking for uni classes’ where our Sixth Form pupils learn a wide range of skills and recipes, helping to equip them for life after school, which is hugely important. We have also teamed up with the department in a competition to design the menu for a day. The winning pupils will spend a day in the kitchen as ‘Head Chef,’ helping to prepare and serve the dishes to the whole school.
9. What are your foodie predications for the next few months? Any new trends coming? More raw food?
I think we will see more Flexitarians, as people eat less meat for environmental reasons. I’m also sure, as more is known about the importance of diet on the gut microbiome, that we will have more take up of the fermented foods such as Kimchi and the live yoghurt that we serve. We have already increased the number of prebiotic foods in dishes we offer to promote good gut health.