School dinners from Otter Garden Centre

Neil Barber preparing meals for school pupils in the kitchens at Otter Garden Centre. Picture: Otter

Neil Barber preparing meals for school pupils in the kitchens at Otter Garden Centre. Picture: Otter - Credit: Archant

The empty kitchens at Otter Garden Centres have been put to good use to support local schools needing meals for children still attending.

All Otter garden centres and restaurants are now closed to the public in line with government guidance.

But this didn’t stop two chefs volunteering to make 300 school dinners in a single day.

Neil Barber and Arron Taylor volunteered to cook the meals which are going to a number of schools to feed children of key workers, with some also being delivered to vulnerable children.

The offer was made after MD Jacqui Taylor heard about one particular hard-working school cook who had been asked to cook school meals seven days a week for a fortnight over the Easter period, due to the schools staying open every day.

With a little help from Otter, this school cook can now have two days off rather than work straight through. Other school cooks have thanked Otter for making the effort, saying that the initiative is a great support.

Jacqui was thrilled that Otter could get involved in this practical way. She said: “Everyone wants to help the NHS teams and all key workers right now. With our large commercial kitchen standing empty we are pleased to be able to use them to provide some support.

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“If the situation continues, we will happily offer to cook and supply more meals. It’s a great way for us to donate our help, whilst we’re closed.”

So, what’s on the ‘Otter school meal menu’?

The talented chefs made roast chicken with roast potatoes and vegetables, home-made chicken pie with mash potatoes and vegetables, and home-made cottage pie with peas and carrots. And for the all-important pudding, a slice of home-made flapjack or shortbread.

Axminster Primary Academy is among schools where kitchen staff are getting a well-earned break this week thanks to Otter Nurseries’ chefs.

Acorn Multi Academy Trust executive head Andrea Rice said: “We are delighted with their support as it gives our team a well-earned rest and continues to provide our children with a nutritious meal made with high quality ingredients.

“We would like to thank Jacqui Taylor and Arron Taylor from Otter Nurseries for making this possible.”