Where do you currently work and what do you do?
I am chef manager at Springwell South Academy in Leeds.
When did you start working there?
At this school it was in January 2019, I transferred from another school over to this one.
What is Sodexo like to work for?
They are a good company to work for, the work is good and overall, they treat you well.
Tell me about a typical day at work
I arrive at 7.30am start getting the lunches ready. I also have management paperwork to do throughout the morning.
Once we have all the food cooked it goes over to the Pods which is where we serve the food to the children. The set-up for serving the children is a little different at this school as it is a specialist school for children who don’t respond well in mainstream education. There are 4 units of children that are separated by age and specialist needs or group affiliations and we serve each unit individually.
How many staff are there in your team?
We have a team of 4 staff preparing food for 2 schools, one high school and a primary school.
What was your application process like?
I applied through the Blue Arrow agency. I had to have a CRB and background check of course but it was pretty straight forward.
What would you say are the most challenging elements of your work?
Some really struggle with the challenging behaviour displayed by the children, they can be quite particular about their food but you just have to carry on and not let it get to you. It would be the same in a restaurant if people complained but in this case the children have some unique needs and behaviours that can be a challenge. I have a tough outer skin as I have experienced lots of different environments through agency working. How the children behave can be shocking sometimes but you have to take it as it comes and get on with your work.
What were you most nervous about before you started?
Nothing really but I have been with Blue Arrow for 5 years now, I am used to moving around and getting stuck into cooking different types of food, so it doesn’t faze me anymore.
Did you receive any training before you started?
Not really, you do go through your fire regulations, safety and the paperwork requirements but you tend to pick up everything you need to know on the job. The paperwork is the same on every Sodexo site so once you have got your head around it once you are fine.
Are you aware of any career progression or self development options?
I know that there are some permanent jobs going at Sodexo. I heard the managers talking about it recently and they have offered a position before but to be honest the pay is better as a temporary worker on agency, so I am happy to earn more money and stay flexible.
What do you like most about your job?
Definitely meeting different people, I love to talk so doing what I do I get to meet lots of different people of all ages and styles.
I also love cooking, I always wanted to work in catering. I started when I was 8 doing buffets for friends' parties which then grew to doing the catering for businesses at weekends. My parents were in the catering trade so it has been in my life for as long as I can remember.
What do you dislike most about your job?
Maybe the travelling, I cover quite a large area across different shifts and roles, it can take me an hour and a half to travel to work sometimes.
What is your work environment like?
The Sodexo facilities are absolutely immaculate, it is all state-of-the-art equipment. The kitchen I am in right now is brand new, I think it is only around 1 year old. The company is great for getting things done, if you have something that needs repairing, they have a maintenance team on hand to sort it out for you straight away.
What are your fellow team members like?
I have got a really good team actually. In this line of work, staff can range from their mid-twenties to early 50’s but my current team are all between 30 and 40 years old, they are all great at their jobs and they work hard.
Do you receive on-the-job support from management?
I have the Operations Manager who is just a phone call away. We speak maybe 3-4 times a week, she supports me in whatever I need.
What are your long-term goals?
Right now, I like the agency work. I like the freedom and money it provides but who knows where I will end up down the road.
Would you recommend your job to a friend?
Yes, I would. The actual job is great, and the hours are great too, but it is better as agency staff because the money for permanent jobs is not as good.
In this particular environment you do have to take some of what happens with a pinch of salt. Dealing with troubled children is not easy, you have to have a thick skin you know, they do not mean it, they are just children.
There are so many different places you can work with Sodexo though, it’s not just a school like this. I worked for Sodexo in an army barracks and also at the Coca Cola site. They were excellent places to work, I have had some really good times at the army barracks especially, they were great fun and a really good laugh.