Foodservice Cateys 2015: Chef Manager of the Year

23 October 2015
Foodservice Cateys 2015: Chef Manager of the Year

Sponsored by Kerrymaid


Nigel Simmonds, as chef manager at the Connect Catering contract at the Royal Grammar School (RGS) in High Wycombe, is outstanding, according to staff and students, as well as his employer.

Ensuring the client is happy is an essential element of a successful contract and there is no question that is the case at the RGS. The school's food council is now less of a place to moan and somewhere that everyone speaks positively about the fresh bread, pasta, granola and ice-cream prepared on site.

The school's recent "outstanding" rating from Ofsted made direct reference to the catering, highlighting the exclusive arrangements for 104 boarders, aged from 11 to 18, and the "nutritious food of a very good standard".

Simmonds consistently delivers meals that are usually considered outside his expected purchasing power, while at the same time successfully running the contract at 3.12% under budget. He is keen to introduce more creative menus and to this end has attended a masterclass from Michelin-starred chef Sam Moody of the Bath Priory at the Bertinet Cookery School and, as a result, is enjoying challenging the preconceptions of school cookery and the students' palates.

From initially making only bread rolls, Simmonds and his team now regularly prepare pizza bases, naan, pitta, garlic bread, bagels and sourdough. As well as being cost effective, the freshly prepared bread items are also nutritionally better than bought-in products.

Further cost savings and improvements to the healthy attributes of the food he serves have been made by replacing processed meats where possible with home-cooked hams and cold cuts for sandwiches and the salad bar.

Keen to introduce a restaurant-style service to the school, Simmonds has trained his team to plate dishes, as well as provide a friendlier and more helpful customer service approach by creating an enthusiastic rapport with staff and pupils alike.

Teamwork has been boosted by ensuring every staff member covers for one another, allowing everyone to understand the demands of each task in the kitchen. As a result, a foodservice assistant can now readily step from preparing the salad bar to plating the main meals and desserts, while all the time smiling and providing an enjoyable experience for both themselves and their customers.

Creating such an exciting, freshly prepared menu from scratch, under budget, has been a challenge for Simmonds at times, but it is one that his whole team has been involved with and are fully enjoying. The added benefit, of course, is that the staff and pupils love to eat the food they prepare.

What the judges said

Simon Esner, BaxterStorey

"The introduction of carefully managed new initiatives, including baking bread, has ensured that Nigel stays within budget. He serves local, healthy food and trains staff from within."

Steve Deacon, Sodexo

"Nigel is a real chef manager who makes his own bread, pasta, ice-cream and samosas from scratch. His individual teaching methods are inspirational."

Alberto Crisci, The Clink Charity


  • Claire Broderick, BaxterStorey

  • Tony Mulgrew, Ravenscliffe High School

  • Nigel Simmonds, Connect Catering

Past winners

  • 2014 Steve Deacon, Sodexo

  • 2013 Fred Ockwell, The Brookwood Partnership

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