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Chris Bicknell interview – King Edward’s Executive Chef

4th November 2020

At King Edward’s Witley, we take our food very seriously. A variety of options are on offer daily in our dining hall for breakfast, lunch and supper catering for all diets and preferences. Additionally, Piccadilly Café is open from 08:00 till 17:00 for pupils and staff to buy a range of light refreshments. In a gruelling quickfire interview on Tuesday 3 November, Executive Chef, Chris Bicknell was asked this series of questions:

Q: How long have you been at King Edward’s?
A:  10 years exactly, I started October 2010.

Q: How many meals do you prepare/serve for pupils and staff each day?
A:  130 for breakfast, 500 for lunch and between 140-50 in the evening.

Q: Your menu varies daily and includes a meat/poultry, vegetarian and pasta option alongside jacket potatoes, a salad bar and option of sweet of the day or fruit. How do you choose the menu for each day?

A:  Our menus are produced in 3-week cycles for each term. They take into account favourites, popularity, what’s on the high street, latest food trends and also include some simple and some more complicated dishes, all with the option of a sauce on the side.

Q: How do you ensure variety and nutrition?

A:  Once we decide on our menu options they are sent to our company nutritionist for checking and making any suggestions.

Q: King Edward’s is a large school; how many different dietary requirements do you have to take into account?
A:  Approximately 25-30.

Q: Do you source the ingredients locally?A:  Yes, we try to buy as locally as possible. Our regular suppliers are in Cranleigh, Ford (near Arundel), our fish comes from a fishmonger in Farnham and our dairy from Southampton.

Q: How many staff do you have?
A:  We are a team of 27.

Q: How are you managing the social distancing restrictions at the moment?
A:  It’s a balancing act but we have different work areas for different staff. The front of house staff keep out of the kitchen during non-service times and the chefs stay out of the kitchen area at service times. We are good at making it work and socially distance from one another as much as possible.

Q: On a normal school day, what time does the kitchen open and what time does it close?
A:  We open at 06.00 and close at 20.00.

Q: Is Piccadilly Cafe still open for hot and cold drinks and light snacks?
A:  Yes, we serve teas and coffees in take away containers and our pastries are sold using paper bags as opposed to on a plate.

Q: What happens during the holiday periods?
A:  We still feed the School staff so we are in the kitchen. In a normal year we also take the opportunity to visit suppliers, spend time in London at the markets and street stalls for inspiration and new ideas. We have also also run cooking competitions internally which are judged by catering and school staff as part of a team building exercise, it’s also a good time for training.

Q: During your 10 years at King Edward’s, what has been your biggest challenge?
A:  It’s difficult to pick one specific event but I do remember we were catering for the annual Leavers’ Ceremony. A BBQ for 300 people had been organised to take place outside the library and literally 20 minutes before the start, the heavens opened. All hands on deck, we had to gather everything up and rush to the Selborne Room, set up quickly and move the BBQ outside the Sixth Form Centre! We managed it and everything was fine but it certainly caused a few hairy moments!

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