This month, we spoke with Jonathan Player, Managing Director at The Professional Nursery Kitchen in Basildon, Essex.
After running day nursery schools for over 30 years, the owners of The Professional Nursery Kitchen found it increasingly difficult to find fresh, nutritious food for the children in their care. To solve the problem, they decided to embark on providing freshly prepared meals themselves via one central kitchen.
A successful start
The Professional Nursery Kitchen was born after 2 years of planning, finally launching in May of this year. It’s a unique business model, and one which Jonathan believes is the only business of its kind in the south-east of England.
Despite only having been up and running for 5 months, the kitchen currently services 17 day nurseries in the Essex and Hertfordshire area. It employs a team of 4 permanent, fully qualified chefs, and 5 culinary assistants to prepare meals for day nurseries and early years settings.
The Professional Nursery Kitchen have sought the input of dieticians and other professionals to ensure the meals they provide are nutritionally balanced for children.
Saving precious time
The meals are all prepared using fresh ingredients, which are cooked and then blast chilled, ready to be delivered to customers.
Jonathan explains: “We are one of the only providers of meals specifically designed for young children, and we use the cook-chill process, delivering the meals fresh to each nursery twice a week, which they then cook and complete the dish in their ovens.”
He adds, “Many day nurseries care for around 100 children or less and do not have the space for a kitchen or the scale to employ professionally trained chefs.
“No single setting has the scale to improve or employ a larger catering team, but by accessing a professional central kitchen together they can all benefit from a shared resource and serve outstanding meals.”
Due to the fact that The Professional Nursery Kitchen take care of the meal planning and preparation, their meals are simple to cook and do not require a dedicated chef or cook after delivery. The chefs’ care and attention even extends to the way they cut the food, ensuring it’s prepared in such a way that it minimises the choking hazard for young children.
Catering for allergies
Customers are given a choice of meals from the current winter menu, which includes breakfast, 2 snacks, lunch and evening tea. The kitchen provides a range of meat and vegetarian options, all prepared by the chefs using fresh ingredients. They also limit the number of allergens used in their recipes, so they can cater for children with specialist requirements.
Jonathan says: “We also cater for a large number of children with complex allergies, and are proud to work alongside nurseries to understand how we can ensure every child has access to nutritious and healthy food, whilst ensuring allergies are catered for.”
Ensuring care isn’t compromised
Even though The Professional Nursery Kitchen delivery team are all DBS checked, they offer to deliver and unpack meals to providers on an ‘out-of-hours’ basis, ensuring staff ratios are easily maintained. This also means that nursery staff aren’t distracted from providing care to the children.
From the feedback they’ve received in the short time that they’ve been running, Jonathan explains that ease of service is one of the aspects that their customers enjoy most: “Our customers have said they really enjoy the ease of service we provide.
“We deliver freshly prepared meals twice per week, which come pre-packaged in silver containers labelled with the ingredients, allergens and cooking instructions.
“Secondly, our customers say they love the fact that we provide healthy and nutritious food, which is, of course, crucial for children’s growth and development in the Early Years. We are passionate about providing nutritious and delicious meals for early years settings, and understand that the tastes a child encounters in their early life affects their eating habits as adults.”
So, with such a bright and brilliant start to their young business, how do the owners of The Professional Nursery Kitchen see their services expanding in the future?
Jonathan explains, “In the future, we’d like to continue promoting the message about how important healthy and nutritious food is in the Early Years, and hopefully expand our services to cater for a much larger number of customers.”
Find out more about The Professional Nursery Kitchen at www.theprofessionalnurserykitchen.co.uk