WOW! Haven’t things changed since we were young? Way back when, I remember the school trips from my Junior school years. They always seemed to be to places of historical importance or museums and not necessarily to the places my friends and I would have chosen for a day off school. As I got older, the trips involved a little more travel and even, very, very occasionally, a theatre trip, or suchlike, that required additional financial input from willing parents. These days school trips appear to have changed dramatically or, at least, that appears to be the case this term for my pair. They appear to be far more exciting than any school day out that I remember.
M’ school trip happened a couple of weeks ago and, as it fell on a day I didn’t have to work, I tagged along for the ride. The day itself was grey, wet and miserable, but that didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of the 27 7- and 8-year olds going out for the trip. We clambered aboard the bus and off we set, amongst much discussion of just how long it would take for us to reach our destination. Fortunately, a mere 20 minutes later we arrived, disembarked and were ready for the next 2 hours. Our location? Pizza Express!
Last year, Pizza Express teamed up with the Children’s Food Trust to encourage children to get cooking. They offer free visits to schools, where the classes are taught about the provenance of the food they eat, learn basic health and safety in the kitchen and have the opportunity to make their own pizza to enjoy. What was even better, from my point of view at least, is that Pizza Express offers an excellent experience for food-allergy sufferers, which meant that M was able to participate fully on the day itself.
They started with a tour of the kitchens and a quick step into the enormous fridges – if they dared. We saw the pizza ovens, where we were told that a pizza takes no more than 4 minutes to cook, which certainly left us adults scratching our heads and wondering quite why it takes so much longer when you’re waiting at your table! This was followed by a food-based quiz, where 1 of M’s classmates impressed me by being able to identify oregano just from a photo and the children were able to taste, if they wanted, some of the ingredients they would be using later. Next, the pizza chef on site prepared from scratch one of the most popular pizzas, cooked it and offered a slice to everyone there.
Finally, as every child was now nearly at bursting point, they were sent to wash their hands thoroughly before starting to prepare their pizzas. An impressive array of ingredients was set out on the tables, enough to satisfy even the most picky of eaters, without overwhelming them with choice. Pizza bases were passed along the lines and the restaurant manager made certain that M’s gluten-free base was on its own tray to avoid the risk of any cross-contamination. M was given his own spoon and first go at the tomato sauce, so I was confident that his pizza would remain “safe”.
Every Pizza Express restaurant has a reference folder which shows every ingredient used in their recipes and indicates what allergens each contains. I was confident that the pepperoni provided was M-friendly, but it was fantastic to be able to check so easily and without fuss. I had prepared some slices of our newly discovered Violife cheese too, which meant M could finally have a pizza with cheese, rather than without which has so often been the case. M stood happily with his friends, laughing and chatting as they each designed their idea of the perfect pizza.
Once the pizzas were made, including those of all the teaching staff and parent helpers present, they were popped into the massive ovens to bake. As soon as they were ready, they were placed into individual takeaway boxes for transporting back to school and each box carefully labelled with each child’s name. All the hard work done, it was back to the coach and to school, ready for a pizza lunch.
It was great morning out and once again my heartfelt thanks go to Pizza Express for ensuring it was an experience that M could share in too, despite the multiple food allergies. Not only do they provide great ingredients and plenty of allergen information, but they are clearly conscious of the risks of cross-contamination for food-allergy sufferers and work hard to ensure those are minimised as much as possible. I was impressed with the birthday party we had there for G and equally so that time and care was taken to make sure that this school trip was 100% successful too. I have no idea what trip is planned next, but I suspect it will take a lot to beat this one!