Annual Chef Survey 2021 - Chefs In Schools

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Annual Chef Survey 2021 - Chefs In Schools
Annual Chef Survey 2021
Annual Chef Survey 2021 - Chefs In Schools
Who we are
‘The restaurant chefs transforming school meals’
Observer Food Monthly

‘Hackney cooking school plants seeds of healthy eating campaign’
Financial Times

'A new initiative bringing top chefs into London state primaries is
changing school dinners.’
Evening Standard Magazine

‘[The] cooks are not only cooking, but they are transforming the
schools. They are teaching children to cook, and training their
kitchen staff.’
Daily Telegraph

'Chefs in Schools is a great and badly needed initiative’
Prue Leith in The Guardian

'Ensuring that every child eats well in school, develops a healthy
relationship with food and learns to cook savoury dishes from
Huffington Post

Annual Chef Survey 2021 - Chefs In Schools
What we do
While writing the School Food Plan in 2014, Henry Dimbleby (a governor at his
children’s state primary, Gayhurst Community School in Hackney) posted a tweet
asking whether anyone would be interested in taking over the school kitchen.
Nicole Pisani – then head chef at the acclaimed Soho restaurant Nopi – decided
to take the gamble of a lifetime, applied and was offered the job.

During her time at Gayhurst, Nicole retrained the school cooks using the
restaurant brigade system; teaching them to cook everything from scratch
including baking bread daily. She also took charge of the cooking curriculum,
teaching the children to butcher whole chickens and cook over fire pits in the
playground. This work became the model for Chefs in Schools and, since 2018,
we have supported 35 schools to completely transform the standards of school
food and food education.

We help schools to recruit passionate, skilled chefs, who, with our help, take on
and transform school food and food education. Where schools already have a
chef, we provide a bespoke training programme to help them make dramatic
improvements to the food they are producing. We provide expert support for
schools and chefs to help them make a success of the transformation.
Annual Chef Survey 2021 - Chefs In Schools
Chefs in Schools believe that being part of the school kitchen workforce is a vital and
skilled career. School chefs and cooks play a crucial role in shaping the eating habits
of the next generation, from the food they serve in dining halls, to opportunities to
educate children about food in the classroom.

We believe firmly that having a happy school kitchen workforce is key; chefs who feel
valued in their profession, recognised for their skills and given the opportunity to
innovate, create and develop their skillset further. All too often in school kitchens, as
research by Unison indicates, kitchen staff can feel undervalued and demotivated. A
central part of our ethos is to help and encourage schools to create a rewarding
workplace for their kitchen teams.

We established the Chefs Alliance on our launch in 2018, to provide a support
network for chefs working in schools. As we move into 2021, we are looking to shape
and develop that further, and hone the way we work with schools, by listening to
what chefs have to say about their workplace.

The following pages detail the findings of the first annual survey of chefs we have
placed into school kitchens. It also details the actions we will take to help address
concerns that have been raised. We hope you enjoy reading this report.
        report.pdf#   4
Annual Chef Survey 2021 - Chefs In Schools
Executive summary
Since our launch, we’ve placed more than 35 chefs into their first role in the school
food sector, and implemented our training programme for chefs who already work in
schools in several more. Our first survey of chefs highlights high levels of job
satisfaction, despite the significant disruption to working life caused by the coronavirus
pandemic. Some of the key findings include:

•     96% of chefs reported feeling satisfied or very satisfied in their job
•     88% of chefs were satisfied or very satisfied with the support they received from
      Chefs in Schools
•     92% had experienced a shift in food culture within their school
•     100% of chefs would recommend working in a school kitchen to a friend

Whilst chefs were keen on the work life balance offered by life as a school chef, their
primary motivator was the opportunity to work with children. Responses indicate a
high degree of purpose-led motivation.

Chefs who work in schools are responsible for helping to shape kids eating habits for
life. Our findings indicate that knowing and being valued for that purpose is a great
driver of motivation and job satisfaction.
    An important note: We prepared this survey with pro-bono support from Splitpin who are specialists in employee
    engagement survey programme management and delivery. They helped us to devise the questions and ensure a
                                                 high response rate.
Annual Chef Survey 2021 - Chefs In Schools
How satisfied are school chefs with their job?                                          What is your current level of job satisfaction?

                                                                                    Neither satisfied
                                                                                                                             Very satisfied
                                                                                    nor dissatisfied
Schools, and school kitchens in particular, can be rewarding, but tough places            4%
to work. Research by Unison indicates the wider school kitchen workforce
often feel undervalued and excluded as a member of the wider school team.
They also expressed concerns around workload, pay and job security.
In our ‘School by School’ programme, we work with schools who employ their
kitchen teams directly. We ask them to commit to valuing and investing in
their kitchen teams, as part of our School Food Charter.
We asked chefs we had trained and supported, how satisfied they were with                                                          72%
their jobs. We also asked whether coronavirus had an impact on their job
satisfaction, and whether joining our programme had improved their level of               What impact has the coronavirus crisis had on
                                                                                                 your level of job satisfaction?
job satisfaction.
                                                                                                                                  A great deal
                                                                                     None at all                                      16%
In contrast to the wider sector, we found that, despite more than two thirds           36%
of respondents feeling that the pandemic had impacted on their job
satisfaction, overall levels of job satisfaction amongst chefs was very high. All
but one chef was satisfied with their job, with a quarter very satisfied.
Reviewing the responses to the survey overall, we believe this is indicative of
feeling valued in their work and knowing that they are part of a wider mission
to improve child health.                                                                                                              A moderate
Annual Chef Survey 2021 - Chefs In Schools
21 of the 25 chefs responding felt that their job
 How satisfied are school chefs                                        satisfaction had increased since getting involved in the
   with their job, continued                                           Chefs in Schools programme, with another 3 feeling it had
                                                                       maintained at previous levels. Chefs talked about finding
                                                                       working with children very rewarding, one stating ‘the
                                                                       best job they’d ever had’ but also recognised a job that
           Has your level of job satisfaction increased or             can have a high work load, and setbacks that ‘make you
          decreased since beginning the Chefs In Schools
                                                                       feel like it’s back to square one’.
                                                      Decreased        Overall, we see this as indicating that working in a school
   Neither                                            somewhat         kitchen can be a rewarding, fulfilling career choice for a
increased nor                                            4%
  decreased                                                            chef, provided school chefs are supported, trained and –
     12%                                                               crucially – valued as having an important role. Chefs
                                                                       working in schools that are been through our programme
                                                                       also have the freedom to innovate, be creative, they are
                                                                       considered to be experts in their fields.
                                                                       Although these results show high levels of satisfaction, we
                                                     Increased a lot
     Increased somewhat                                   52%          noted that one respondent felt that their job satisfaction
             32%                                                       had decreased. In Spring 2021, we are stepping up our
                                                                       check-ins with chefs, to ensure that they have a sounding
                                                                       board and our support, when things don’t feel as though
                                                                       they are going in the right direction.

Annual Chef Survey 2021 - Chefs In Schools
How have you found the change between
            the private and public sector?
When we start working with a new school, we first help them to assess their
existing kitchen team and identify any gaps in skills or understaffing. Our model of
genuine fresh food production requires both skilled staff and sufficient workforce
to prepare everything from raw ingredients.

With a number of the schools that we’ve worked with so far, we’ve helped them to
recruit a new chef to lead and train up the existing team. These chefs are often
following Nicole’s journey from the restaurant industry into a school kitchen for the
first time. Our year long initial support programme is designed to both embed our
model and also support the chef through that transition.

We asked chefs in this survey how                          Difficult Very difficult   Very easy
they have found the transition                               4%          4%              4%

between private and public sector.

Nearly all of the chefs (92%) reported
                                                      Neither easy                                Easy
no issues, with half finding the                      nor difficult                               46%
transition easy. Two chefs found the
transition difficult –we will continue
to work on refining our programme to ensure
all chefs feel fully supported in making this move.                                                      8
Annual Chef Survey 2021 - Chefs In Schools
Do chefs feel that food culture in their school is improving?
Our aim with the School by School training programme is to help schools put food back into
the heart of the school day. This means recognising both food served in the dining hall, and
taught in the classroom, as linked educational opportunities for children.
Often, the schools that we work with have had a poor experience with outsourced food
provision. They report struggling with a culture of bland, beige and boring food. Menus too
frequently default to items considered to be ‘kids favourites’, but even the execution of these
sure fire hits (fish and chips, roast dinners, pizza) fall short due to poor quality ingredients,
packet mixes and reliance on frozen pre-made menu items.
This can be a really challenging environment for chefs to tackle. It isn’t enough to improve
food on the counter, the whole culture and narrative around food needs to change. We asked
chefs what level of shift they’d seen in food culture since they started. The vast majority (92%)
had experienced a shift, and two thirds reported
                                                                  What shift in food culture have you
a significant shift, however it was noticeable                               experienced?
                                                   None at all
that for four chefs, they felt little or no shift     8%       A little                           A great deal
in food culture.                                                 8%                                   34%
                                                           A moderate
As a key takeaway from this survey, we will be         amount
reviewing our programme and school engagement 21%
to ensure every school is ready for, and supportive of,
the need to shift food culture, prior to starting the programme.
                                                                                                     A lot
Annual Chef Survey 2021 - Chefs In Schools
Do chefs feel supported?
 Being a school chef can be a huge and daunting role to take on, particularly if you are                             Support from School Leadership
 walking into a kitchen with a workforce in need of significant reinvigoration, training and                                                       Very
                                                                                                           Neither satisfied nor
 investment. No one should underestimate the scale of the challenge that some chefs face                       dissatisfied                      satisfied
                                                                                                                   12%                             28%
 when first entering a new school kitchen. Our programme is designed to support those
 chefs and we aim to exclusively work with schools who will also value and support their
 kitchen teams; it’s a core part of our School Food Charter. We asked the chefs how
 satisfied they were with the support from Chefs in Schools and from Senior Leadership in
 the school.

             Support from Chefs in Schools                                                                        60%
Neither satisfied nor
    dissatisfied                               Very
        12%                                  satisfied     Overall chefs felt well supported by both their schools and by Chefs in Schools. 22 out of
                                               36%         25 chefs responding were either satisfied or very satisfied with the level of support given
                                                           to them. Of the remaining three chefs, they had no strong feelings either way.
                                                           One of the core themes that came through the survey, was the chefs desire to keep
                                                           learning and developing professionally. Feedback under this question included more
Satisfied                                                  training on school specific topics like child nutrition and menu planning.
                                                           We will go into this in more detail in the coming slides.
Showcasing that Better is Possible

A core part of our wider strategy is to challenge and disprove
unhelpful myths about school food. The perception that poor
school food is acceptable because it isn’t possible to do better          I do not wish   Other
                                                                          to showcase     16%
with the budget available, or that school food isn’t a worthwhile
                                                                             my work
or priority investment for schools. We aim to challenge that by                4%
showcasing the work Head Chef Educators are doing every day,
to educate and nourish young children. We do this because             I would like
we’re really proud of what they do, but also to demonstrate          opportunity to
that it’s possible to do innovative, exciting school food well, to   showcase my
encourage others to follow their lead.                                    4%                      I am proud to
                                                                                                    be able to
                                                                                                  showcase my
A majority (76%) of the chefs responded that they were proud                                          work
to showcase their work on our social media feeds. One noted                                            76%
that they prefer not to showcase their work, with others keen
that it is an optional element, not yet ready to show off their
work, or not holding strong opinions about social media.

What do chefs like most about their job?                                                 How likely are you to recommend working in a
                                                                                                           school kitchen to a friend
We asked chefs what they liked most about their jobs, and whether they would
recommend the career choice to a friend. Every chef responding would
recommend working in a school kitchen to a friend, 58% were very likely to. We                    Likely, 41.67%

believe that is due to the strong motivations the chefs have for their work.                                                                   Very likely,
Whilst respondents were, understandably, enthusiastic about the work / life
balance available working in a school, including the holidays, far and away the
biggest motivator was working with children. We believe that working in a school
kitchen can be a fantastic, life and family friendly, career choice for a chef. One of
the perceptions that we’re trying to change, is how important the job of a school
chef or cook is. This is a workforce that is not only feeding children every day, but
also has the opportunity to shape a life long relationship with food.                                   What is the best part of your job
Other responses given included ‘making a difference; and ‘being able to help
develop the next generation of foodies’. We know that strong connection,
between the ‘mission’ of feeding all children well, and the chef, is a key driver of     20

job satisfaction.                                                                        15

We want all school chefs and cooks across the country to feel valued and
recognised for the importance of their work, which is why we’re working to
develop the first professional qualification for school chefs, which will be rolled      0
                                                                                              Working with   The work / life Training up the The extended
out in 2022.                                                                                   children         balance      kitchen teams     holidays

Did chefs know what they were getting into?
As much as we passionately believe that working in a school kitchen
and classroom is a brilliant career choice, we also recognise that it
                                                                                To what extent does your role meet the
can be a culture shock, both for the chef and the team that they are           expectations you had when applying for it
working with! Our role as a charity is to support both the school and
the chef with the transition, using Nicole’s experience and support
from our incredible partners (including the Trail and Rekki apps), to
help make the path as smooth as possible.
Still, the initial few months can be challenging. Whilst we want to                  60%
encourage more chefs to make the move, and sous chefs to step up
into the role, we also want to balance that with a realistic view of
what the job entails. It’s also very important to us that the schools
                                                                        Exceeded expectations   Met expectations   Below expectations
that we work with directly are fully on board, from governing body
down, with the need to change and embed a healthy culture of food.
We’ve learned some lessons on this over the last three years. It’s           “I was aiming to find a friendly environment to
heartening that all but one of the chefs responding felt the job role         work where my cooking skills can be use for a
had met their expectations, however, we will continue to work on                            good purpose.”
this in future – our aim is to get this score to 100%.

How can we develop our Chefs Alliance?
                                                                                            We have built up a network of school chefs, which we call the
         What could the Chefs Alliance offer that would be most                             Chefs Alliance. Our goal is for this to become an ongoing
                            useful to you ?                                                 external source of input and inspiration for all chefs working
                                                                                            directly for schools. As the subject matter experts in their fields,
                                                                                            we think it’s really important for the chefs to have a network of
                                                                                            people in similar roles to tap into – for support, guidance and
                                                                                            We asked the chefs what would be most useful to them and
                                                                                            were delighted to see training and development as the top ask.
10                                                                                          For too long, training in school kitchens has been focused on
8                                                                                           legal compliance only. We want to see continuous professional
                                                                                            development become as ubiquitous in the school kitchen as it is
                                                                                            in the rest of the school. In 2021, we will develop this strand,
                                                                                            launching a series of webinars on best practice. Over time, we
                                                                                            will develop further school kitchen specific training programmes
        Access to   Access to a     Access to    Access to a    Access to   Other (please   and qualifications that the Chefs Alliance can tap into.
      training and community of    advice and     range of     recipe and     specify)
     opportunities other chefs    guidance on     suppliers    menu ideas                   Given the high number of responses for each option, we will
           for      who work in   how to work
      professional    schools      in a school                                              work to incorporate all of these into the Chefs Alliance and will
                                                                                            provide a further update in six months time on our progress.
How does being a Head Chef Educator compare to the rest of the industry?

                                                                                  Industry Comparisons

                                                       96%                                                              Chefs in Schools
We asked a number of questions in the
survey, that allow us to compare results to                    82%                                                      Wider food service sector
                                                                                      78%               76%
the wider public & private foodservice
sector. The following results demonstrate                                                                      63%

that the vast majority of chefs enjoy and
are proud of their work. In a part of the
industry that has too often been looked
down on in foodservice, 96% of chefs felt
proud to work with us vs 82% in the
comparison. We think this is another really
great indicator of what a rewarding job
this can be.                                  I am proud to work for   ​I would recommend       I​ rarely think about
                                                   this company            this company to     looking for a new job
                                                                         people I know as a    with another company
                                                                         great place to work

What concrete actions will we take with your feedback?

1.   Over the course of 2021-22, we will develop the Chefs Alliance, with a focus on providing training
     and continuous professional development opportunities for Head Chef Educators.
2.   We will develop an effective briefing for new chefs, with information on the school, kitchen and
     team that they are joining
3.   We will formalise a regular check in process with chefs, to ensure they feel supported when things
     aren’t running smoothly
4.   We will develop an opt-in approach to social and traditional media, so that chefs who want to
     participate are offered equal opportunity, and those who don’t can opt out
5.   We will continue to refine and hone our programmes to ensure every school that we engage with is
     fully on board with the need to shift food culture

     We will report on our progress against these goals in six months time, and welcome your ongoing
                                        feedback in the meantime

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