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The Knowledge: Spotlight on Cucina

13 November 2008 by

Cucina landed seven new education contracts for the new academic year, helping the company hit its target of profitability two years on from its first contract. It currently caters for 15,000 pupils at 23 sites.

What is Cucina?

Cucina (pronounced Cuchina) is the Italian word for kitchen or a place where food is prepared. Set up by Stephen Quinn, previously with Compass Group's Scolarest, the company is based on the concept of an experienced restaurant chef heading up a team cooking fresh, locally sourced food.

Who does the company compete against/admire?

Scolarest and Sodexo. Most admired are chefs Gordon Ramsay, Marcus Wareing and Gary Rhodes, and business and industry caterer Vacherin.

Scope of operation

England but not central London. The state and private sector at primary and secondary levels.

Key personnel

  • Tony Ridgewell, regional manager, previously with Scolarest
  • Peter Bell, skills trainer and food consultant to Yorkshire and Humberside food group
  • Ian Morgan, executive head chef, has previously worked as Gary Rhodes's head chef in Manchester
  • Samantha Davies, "foodie", previously with Scolarest

Vital statistics

  • Established: December 2005
  • First contract: Southfields School for Girls, Kettering, Northamptonshire (July 2006). 23 contracts (England).
  • Staff: 80 - at some contracts staff are employed by the school with Cucina managing them.
  • Annual turnover: £2.5m

    What's next?

A central production kitchen for the items currently bought in is being considered. The company is also working with InterContinental Hotels to develop the food offer at the Liverpool Staybridge apartments.By Chris Druce

VIEW FROM THE TOP:Stephen Quinn, managing director

On the name

Other caterers seem to launch with the names of the partners involved, so I wanted something different. Kitchen in English didn't quite work but Cucina had a nice ring to it.

On setting up his own company

I was a regional director for education with Compass when it restructured. I'd felt that school catering needed to go a different way for some time so put my money where my mouth was to set Cucina up with £100,000.

On the nutrient-based standards for schools

I think we're in danger of losing sight of the objective, which was to get kids to eat better. The new standards won't change this as you can still murder the most nutritious meal if you cook it incorrectly.

School caterer Cucina hits targets >>
School dinners >>

By Chris Druce

E-mail your comments to Chris Druce here.

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