Hot stuff chef off to pastures new

National Roast Dinner Day is a highlight of the calendar at Todmorden High School.
National Roast Dinner Day is a highlight of the calendar at Todmorden High School.

A CHEF is getting his teeth into a new challenge after spending more than a decade transforming the local food culture.

Tony Mulgrew, the award-winning school and community catering manager at Todmorden High School, has left his role and taken up a new position at Ravenscliffe High School in Halifax.

Tony Mulgrew hands over to Todmorden High School's new catering manager Christine Gorton

Tony Mulgrew hands over to Todmorden High School's new catering manager Christine Gorton

Tony’s passsion and enthusiasm for spreading the message of preparing easy, cheap and healthy meals enabled him to promote this message far and wide, and to the town’s most vulnerable students and families.

He is now looking forward to the challenge of doing the same in Halifax as he takes over as catering manager at Ravenscliffe High.

“Like everyone, you need challenges in life and I had got to the point at Todmorden High School that I felt I could do no more where the food was concerned,” he said.

“I had such great support from the local community, farms and businesses.

“The catering team at the high school have been instrumental in what we have achieved over the last few years.”

Tony started at Todmorden High School in 2001. After carrying out much research, he approached the senior leadership team with some unusual ideas.

Not satisfied with preparing increasingly healthy food, he also wanted the students to see where their food was coming from and to give them an understanding of the environmental impacts of sourcing food.

He saw further benefits to this policy, explaining that using locally sourced produce helps local businesses which, in turn, would have an impact on the local economy and help towards employment of the students in the future.

“I’m very pleased with my time at Todmorden High School,” he said.

“I was at the forefront of the catering department but it was the ladies in that team that supported me and helped me achieve what we were able to do.”

As well as working in the high school’s kitchen, supplying meals for local primary schools and leading food-related curriculum events, Tony has also been a regular feature at Incredible Edible Todmorden (IET) events, and has provided catering for private functions, often working 14 hour days and six day weeks.

“I would like to say a big thank you to the community. It’s been a privilege to be part of that,” he said. He was a director, and founder member, of Incredible Edible Todmorden Ltd and acted as a school support staff governor.

“For IET to be recognised so widely, not just on the local and national level but on a worldwide level, it’s been an honour to be one of the people involved in that,” he said.

“I will continue to support them wherever I possibly can.”

Tony decided to move on to pastures new as Ravenscliffe is in a similar position now to that in which Todmorden High School found itself in 2001.

“Ravenscliffe is going from local authority to in-house catering. I thought it was a brilliant new challenge to get my teeth into, starting from scratch again,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to it and hopefully being able to apply what I have done in Todmorden.”

Christine Gorton, who has worked alongside Tony at Todmorden High School for ten years, has taken over as the school’s new catering manager.

“She is very capable of producing quality food,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, she will be the competitor that I have to beat.”

Helen Plaice, headteacher at Todmorden High School, paid tribute to Tony’s achievements over the past few years.

“Whilst we will miss him, I support his reasons for making this move,” she said.

“Tony has always been passionate about passing on the skills of his trade to young people.

“Ravenscliffe is a school for students with learning disabilities and his new role involves him working directly with small groups of students on a daily basis.

“This will give him a new challenge where he can carry on with his mission to really make a difference to students’ lives.

“I wish him well for the future and thank him for the significant contribution that he has made to making Todmorden High School the vibrant and improving school that we see today.

“Looking to the future, our cook in charge, Christine Gorton, has been successful in her application to catering manager and already has plans to build on the strong foundations that Tony has left for us.”

Estelle Brown, of IET, said: “Looking back over the last four years we have done so many things together.

“Tony has cooked in the street, in a tent, a caravan, on a market stall, in sunshine and in rain.

“He entertained and informed our visitors from around the world and the folk from right here in Tod and always with a smile.

“We know he will do great things at his new school in Halifax, just like he has here.”