Focus on Shirley Avery, Catering Manager, Stourhead

Published : Tue 1st Mar Author : National Trust

The Food for Life Catering Mark was originally set up in 2003 to encourage schools to take up healthy, local produce and get their children involved in knowing about and growing food.

"Achieving Gold Standard shows our visitors that we really do care about food," says Shirley. "It enhances our reputation for sharing the knowledge and encouraging sustainable food sourcing. We’re proud to be part of a movement that reshapes the way people think about food and we all take pleasure in explaining the food story. The team all live locally and want to support neighbouring businesses that keep our towns and villages alive."

We found out what Shirley and her team had to do to achieve it ...

So, what makes Stourhead a stand-out property?

We are fortunate to have a bounty of quality, organic produce local to us here, as well as prime beef and presses from the estate itself. The team are the icing sugar on the cake with their enthusiasm for good food shining through their sharing of ideas and recipes.

What did you need to do to achieve the Gold Standard?

The Trust’s ethos of fresh, local, seasonal ingredients, prepared to make delicious, healthy food is remarkably similar to the Food for Life standards. There was little we needed to do in terms of training or a new way of thinking, as we were already doing it! To make the grade we increased the percentage of organic produce in our menus, highlighted its use and promoted vegetarian meals. This meant that we had to source some new organic suppliers – local where possible – whose products do not contain undesirable additives and hydrogenated fats.

What were some of the challenges?

Changing and sourcing some of our local suppliers in order to achieve the required percentage of organic produce was time consuming. But most businesses are only too happy to try to satisfy our needs once they’re clear, and tasting sesssions for new lines are one of the perks of the job. We all have producers local to our properties, it’s being determined to use them and be creative with their ingredients that can make the difference.

Do visitors comment?

We have plenty of positive feedback, particularly around animal welfare.

Three tips for properties aspiring to greater food things?

Fresh. Local. Organic. 

Why not take a look at our current catering opportunities

Find out more about Catering roles with the National Trust