Julian Ankers, Executive Head Chef at Lancaster University, talks about the sustainable food initiatives happening in the University’s kitchens.
I have been in post for three years, and during this time my key responsibilities have included the training and development of the catering team, and the development of menus within our food units to be innovative, balanced and to appeal to students, visitors and staff.
The catering services on campus are run from the main production kitchen, which has had a major refit over the last couple of years. We also have supplementary kitchens spread across campus.
The main kitchen produces food for the many different types of food outlets we have on campus, including a preschool, bars, restaurants and conference catering (which ranges from basic sandwich lunches though to royal functions).
The food we serve to students on campus is very diverse. We cater for a wide range of dietary requirements and religious beliefs. Customers are therefore given the information they need to make an informed choice when buying food, and we change the menus to match the seasons. Some food outlets, like the lounge, offer a menu guided by homemade and seasonal produce.
To support our local food economy we use local suppliers for our meat, vegetables, smoked products and dairy. I also run many cookery events across campus for students and staff alike.
We have been working with the Soil Association on the Food for Life partnership, and currently hold two gold awards, one silver and four bronze awards. We were recently awarded the best University caterer by CUBO (College and University Business Organisations), which has helped us to adopt an approach to menu design that accounts for local ingredients. This has helped us move towards becoming the ‘supplier of choice’ on campus that boasts both retail and food outlets.
We also listen to our customers, keeping menus fresh, with plenty of choice, whilst keeping up with modern trends and thinking outside the box. We run themed evenings throughout the year and have also piloted an Italian restaurant. We also work with the Students Union (including Green Lancaster), bars, and have started new street food operations which will run alongside events on campus.
My experiences so far as Executive Chef at Lancaster University are a million miles away from my previous position: chef patron at a fine dining restaurant which i ran for 23 years. However, I believe I have been able to support and drive our catering department forward to help the University meet its aspiration to be one of the top universities in the UK for student satisfaction.