A Coventry school is honouring the hard work and dedication of a member of its catering team whose long service has seen her serve up hundreds of thousands of dinners and welcome generations of the same family to the cafeteria.
Bhagwant Khabra is celebrating 30 years of service at Cardinal Wiseman Catholic School, part of the Romero Catholic Academy.
After moving from India to the UK in 1988, she joined the school’s kitchen staff in 1990 working just seven-and-a-half hours per week.
Despite not speaking any English at the time, she was supported by the kitchen manager and quickly settled into the role.
Over the years, Bhagwant became fluent in English and built up her hours at the school, and has now been promoted to Catering Supervisor.
Bhagwant has seen both catering technology and food trends change over the years, and said it is her love for both the Cardinal Wiseman children and staff members that have kept her at the school.
She said: “I really enjoy my job, it’s very rewarding and I have an excellent team around me – we’re like family.
“Although I had a good education in India, I didn’t learn English, so it was challenging when I first joined Cardinal Wiseman, but my manager at the time was excellent and showed me exactly what to do.
“Now 30 years later I work 30 hours a week and I’ve seen thousands of pupils come and go over the years, and some have even had their own children who now come to the school which is lovely to see.
“The range of food we serve has really changed, and although there is still a demand for hot dinners – with chicken tikka being a particular favourite – we have seen grab and go options such as sandwiches and wraps become increasingly popular.
“There’s also a lot more technology, and jobs that we used to do by hand like peeling vegetables and grating cheese, is done by machines.
“We’re also seeing some exciting developments, including the Academy’s new food van which will allow us to serve up dishes remotely to our students and staff.
“I’m very proud to be celebrating 30 years at Cardinal Wiseman, and I look forward to many more at the school.”
Tom O’Reilly, Catering Manager at the Romero Catholic Academy, said: “Bhagwant is an extremely valued member of our catering team.
“She is well thought of by colleagues and pupils and has a vast amount of knowledge of both Cardinal Wiseman and the catering industry.
“I would like to congratulate her on her 30 years’ service at the school, an achievement that deserves to be recognised.”
Patrick Taggart, Director of Operations at the Academy, added: “We are delighted for Bhagwant, and her service to the school has been outstanding.
“Her quality and commitment and that of her colleagues was a big reason for us recently bringing the catering service in house. This will give us the ability to improve the catering offer to pupils and staff.
“Our new mobile catering van is part of the new service at Cardinal Wiseman and will give us the flexibility to serve children at a range of sites across the school and support our seven primary schools at events and fete days.”
Picture: Bhagwant Khabra (front, centre) and the rest of the catering team at Cardinal Wiseman.