03/12/2014 14:19 GMT | Updated 20/05/2015 10:12 BST

Frustrated Mum Becomes School Cook So Her Kids Can Have Hot Lunches


When a school's canteen closed, a mum decided to take matters into her own hands – and became the new cook.

Fed up with making packed lunches every day, mum-of-two Susie Zaleski, 41, thought her children Aiya, eight, and Lola, six, would benefit from a decent hot meal during their school day.

So she set up a catering firm and won the contract at St Andrew's Primary School in Buckland Monachorum, near Yelverton, Devon.

She now spends her days in the school's kitchen making everything from pizzas to Spanish chicken stew and chocolate brownies.

Susie was spurred into action because pupils had been reluctant to eat the hot meals on offer at the school and the canteen kitchen was eventually closed.

For 18 months all 202 pupils had to make do with packed lunches every day.

But now, nearly every pupil in the school sits down at lunchtime to enjoy a healthy, locally sourced, child-friendly meal - compared to just 30 pupils a day in previous years.

Susie, who has enlisted the help of other parents at the school to help her serve lunch, says she wants to show that it is not rocket science - children just want simple, good quality food.

She told her local paper: "We've got kids at the school and we all know what they like. We run the menus past our own kids and they'll say 'yay' or 'no', depending on what we suggest.

"We cook everything from scratch. The spaghetti bolognese is a recipe my mum used and we also follow recipes we've found online from Nigella Lawson or Mary Berry.

"We've had such amazing feedback from the children and parents.

"One little girl didn't eat anything for the first couple of days, but gradually she's started to try more and more. Her mum saw me in the street and said 'thank you so much'."

Susie, who used to work as a waitress at the River Cafe restaurant in London, said many parents are willing to pay the £2.30 it costs for each meal because they trust her as a fellow villager and playground mum.

Now, in the 12 months her catering firm Zest has been up and running, she has had the chance to learn all the children's names and their dietary requirements.


MONDAY: Homemade chicken goujons or vegetable, tomato and mozarella pasta bake. Blueberry muffins.

TUESDAY: Homemade lamb koftas or Quorn stew with herby dumplings. Stewed apple with blackberry and vanilla ice-cream.

WEDNESDAY: Roast chicken or cheese and lentil roast. Oaty biscuits.

THURSDAY: Homemade pizza. Fruit and natural yogurt.

FRIDAY: Oven baked fish fingers or Quorn sausages. Pear and chocolate sponge and custard.

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