April's star of the month is Karen Crosbie, for her work as unit manager at Longacre School in Shamley Green, Surrey. Karen, nominated by nutritionist Christine Ford, this month introduced a brain food tasting table to raise kids' awareness of which foods they should choose to "Eat right to stay bright".
To celebrate Easter, Karen and her team dressed up as Easter bunnies, while at Christmas she built a Santa's grotto. She's also recently arranged a teddy bears' picnic on the school lawns and a beach party in the school hall, complete with palm trees.
Why did you nominate Karen?
Christine Ford Because of her total devotion to the children in her care and her absolute dedication to getting them to eat well. She has this childlike vision, is totally tuned into their level and knows how to understand their fears and consequently how to get them to eat. She also loves her job and feels it's her responsibility to make the children eat well. She's motivated and has inspired a brilliant team by example.
How does it feel to win Caterer's Star of the Month award?
Karen Crosbie I'm absolutely thrilled - I feel really appreciated. It makes all the hard work you put in worthwhile and worth doing.
Why do you think you were nominated?
KC When I started at the school two-and-a-half years ago, the kitchen was very basic and the children weren't eating the meals. I got equipment from a school that was closing, painted the kitchen and reorganised the stores, then I tried to interest the children in food with ideas like tasting tables and brain food. I approach everything through kids' eyes. I want them to remember how good it was at Longacre.
What motivates you?
KC There are so many problems with obesity and size-zero pressures, but if you can teach them when they're young not to be afraid of new tastes and textures, then they grow up eating healthily and don't have so many problems. It's showing them that food is fun, lovely and nothing to be frightened of. With pies, they didn't know what was inside and were afraid, so I made the tops separately, so they could see inside and now they know it's OK.
Many caterers struggle to get kids to eat healthily - what are your tips?
KC Show the children that healthy eating isn't boring, vegetables and fruit aren't scary and encourage them to try new things. The key is making food fun and interesting and listening to what they say.
Where do you get inspiration?
KC I'm just a big kid at heart with a passion for food. I should have been an actress, as I love dressing up. Working with children keeps you young and keeps you thinking of things from their point of view.
To enter Caterer‘s Star of the Month competition visit www.caterersearch.com/starofthemonth