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There’s Something About Orkney: Another island chef is onto a winner

Orkney school chef award
Papdale Primary cook supervisor Ellie Newlands has been named as one of three finalists in a Scottish national competition. Supplied by Orkney Islands Council/DCT Media

There is definitely something about those Orkney school chefs.

Papdale Primary cook supervisor Ellie Newlands is in the running for a national award to recognise her for going the extra mile.

The 2021 ASSIST FM (Facilities Management) Outstanding Contribution to Catering award recognises teams or individuals within the industry who go above and beyond.

Ms Newlands is one of three finalists – and the second Orkney school chef to find herself in the running for a 2021 award.

The Assist FM winner will be chosen in May.

No job too big or too small

Orkney schools’ catering manager Scott Pring said that Ms Newlands stood out this year for her work ethic and her “can-do” attitude during the pandemic.

“Ellie has been a school chef for more than 25 years, serving up hundreds of thousands of delicious and carefully thought through meals to children at a number of Orkney schools and nurseries.

Papdale Primary cook supervisor Ellie Newlands is one of three finalists in a Scottish competition. Supplied by Orkney Islands Council.

“She gives careful consideration to those with complex dietary requirements, including allergens – communicating directly with parents, ensuring that they are well informed and treated as partners, all for the benefit of the pupil.”

Mr Pring has 30 years of experience in the catering industry. But he said Ms Newlands’s can-do attitude is the best he’s seen.

“She is calm, consistent, compassionate, caring, has a can-do attitude but above all Ellie’s a great cook!”

First in, last out

Despite her leadership role, Mr Pring said that Ms Newlands is never shy about getting stuck in with her colleagues. She lends a hand at other schools and is a willing dishwasher, courier, prep cook and more.

I’m a typical Orcadian and I’m not really sure how to take this praise. It’s just my job and I get on with it.”

-Ellie Newlands

She also played a critical role during the holidays and lockdowns. While working with 10 other schools and nurseries, she cooked and delivered meals to pupils outwith school hours, Mr Pring said.

“Ellie was first in line to ensure that the children of key workers and those classed as vulnerable were able to attend at the school and receive tasty and nutritious meals.

“She’s first in and last to leave and remains calm and a source of stability to allow others to do their jobs to the best of their ability.”

Just doing my job

Ms Newlands said that despite the challenges of the pandemic, she found stability in the kitchen.

“I was glad to work all the way through (the pandemic) as it was a bit of normality. But it was sad to see how the restrictions impacted on some of the bairns.

Orkney school chef award
Ms Newlands has been in the kitchen serving up meals all through the pandemic. Supplied by Orkney Islands Council.

“I think we long for the day when we can return to the normal hustle and bustle of the dinner hall.”

Still, even though she’s happy to take on any challenge, she’s receiving the recent recognition humbly.

“I’m a typical Orcadian and I’m not really sure how to take this praise. But it’s really nice of Scott to nominate me and for the recognition of what I do.

“I love working with the kids and I have a brilliant team – I couldn’t do what I do without them. It’s just my job and I get on with it.”

Orkney school chefs cooking up awards

Ms Newlands is the second Orkney school chef to be nominated for a national award in 2021. Last year, Stromness school chef Karen Bevan won the title of best school chef in Scotland.

She went on to compete in the UK-wide finals in Birmingham and came up just short.

Ms Newlands will learn the results of the Assist FM award at the organisation’s 2022 gala held in Glasgow on May 17.

More from the Schools and Family team

Meet Megan, Orkney’s eight-year-old motocross star making her name in the dirt

“She has done us all proud”: Island chef still a winner in her community

Papdale teacher tops Ben Nevis to honour friend’s battle with cancer

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