Reaseheath Farm Centre

Reaseheath Food Centre – taking stock 2013-2014!

Reaseheath Farm Centre

As we draw to the close of what has been a very successful year in the food department, it is important to take stock and reflect on some  key achievements:

BRC 6 Grade A – what an outstanding accolade  for industry to achieve, let alone a college!

Bakery – We now have a fantastic bakery facility, with the standard of student work having been truly exceptional this year.

Butchery – Douglas Ewen joined us in November with a view to heading up the highly anticipated Level 2 Diploma in Professional Butchery.  Douglas has taught across the food department this year, introducing students to the rigors of life within the meat sector.  We hope that the new course will provide a platform for those students who want to ‘multi-skill’ within bakery and butchery, as well as those for whom specialism is key.  Douglas was also successful in entering a group of students in the Britain’s Best Burger competition sponsored by EBLEX, where we came a fantastic bronze!

HE – provision has been strengthened this year, with the validation of our new BSc (Hons) Food Manufacturing with Operations Management, giving a clear pathway from Level 3 food through to Level 6.  We look forward to our first intake of students in September for this course.

Individual Recognition Award – May saw our very own Food Curriculum Area Manager Nick Blakemore  rewarded for his support given to team members.  Nick is a crucial member to the team, who always displays a high degree of empathy and understanding for colleagues and students alike.  Well done Nick!


Toni-Anne Harrison


Strawberries…history, rock & roll and flavour pairings

tiny-harvest-758952-mWhen the month of June comes in,

go and see the wood strawberries

blushing red among the greenery,

redder then bright coral,

their three-lobed leaves

spreading like a fan

There the buds of the wild pink flower,

and the vermilion strawberry scents the sward…

A potted history of strawberries: Such was Louis XIV’s love of strawberries he commissioned a literary competition with the poem above taking first prize.  It was under his reign (1643-1715) that a naval officer returned from Chile with some plants of a large native variety which are the great grandparents of modern day varieties.

Although strawberries are native to both the Old and New Worlds, it was not until the Chilean variety was crossed with a variety discovered in Virginia in the 17th century, that the modern day fruit was born.  The first of these is likely to have been in 1764; presented by the young French botanist Antoine Nicolas Duchesne to his royal patron Louis XV.

The first large strawberries that are commonplace now, went onto the market in 1821- the fruits progress is likely to have been hindered by the French Revolution.  By the mid 18th century 153 varieties were documented with 67 names of English origin.  For those of you with a real ardour for the berry, a there is the Strawberry museum in the Wallonia region of Belgium.  Being Belgium, strawberry beer is one of the products available in the gift shop!  More information here:

Just what is it that gives strawberries their gentle seductiveness, to forever stir memories of endless summers and carefree childhoods?  Well, in addition to sugars and acids there are about 15-20 key volatile compounds significant to our sensory perception, out of a total of over 360 reported volatile compounds.  (Just to show all is not gentle seduction – 2,5 dimethyl1-4hydroxy-3(2H)-furanone – is one of the key aromas in strawberries.)

So where does the rock & roll fit?  There may be more, but at least three bands have incorporated ‘strawberry’ into their names.  From 60’s America, Strawberry Alarm Clock who had a (US) 1967 No.1 with ‘Incense and peppermints’ (, English rock band The Strawbs who made it to No.2 in the UK with ‘Part of the Union’ in 1973 (  Finally from Scotland, Strawberry Switchblade, who hit No.5 in the UK charts in 1985 with this offering –

Flavour pairings: Award winning authors of The Flavour Bible (Page and Dornenburg) list most fruits as good pairings, with particular emphasis on lemon, orange, raspberries and rhubarb.  They also recommend cream and ice-cream (I think we all knew those two!), vanilla, sugar, aged balsamic vinegar, black pepper and red/rosé, wine – personally, I would include the white fizz known as Prosecco, Cava or Champagne as well.

Lee Taylor

Local Cherries

Seasonal Food in July

Local Cherries July is a wonderful time for fruit lovers! Cherries are thought to be introduced to this country by the Romans.  They say you can tell if it’s a Roman road if there are wild cherries lining it (after the Romans spat out the pips)! British cherries have a much better flavour than many of the cherries we import. Try morello cherries, they’ve got a wonderful flavour, but rather tart so you may need a bit of sugar! In Cheshire gooseberry growing is taken very seriously!  They’ve been holding Gooseberry Shows in Goostrey since 1897.  Goostrey, and some other neighbouring villages, still have shows in July – and the competition is very fierce! The gooseberries are picked in the presence of a witness and then put into boxes, (the one I’ve photographed is over 90 years old).  The boxes are tied with string and the knot is sealed with wax and stamped. The seal must be intact when brought to the show!

a ninety-year-old gooseberry box

Gooseberry box

They are then weighed in pennyweights and grains. 24 grains = 1 pennyweight and 18 pennyweights = 1 ounce. The worlds heaviest gooseberry was grown by a Cheshire grower, Kelvin Archer. His gooseberry weighed 64.49g (the same as a large egg). Gooseberries make lovely crumbles, fools and pies.  Gooseberries are also rich in pectin, making them ideal for jams and jellies.  Gooseberry curd makes a pleasant change from lemon and can easily be made in a microwave.

My gooseberry chutney

My gooseberry chutney

The sharp flavour of gooseberries also goes well in savoury dishes to accompany oily fish like mackerel or duck.  Gooseberries also make great chutneys and preserves to accompany Cheshire cheese.


Have a look on the web for more seasonal food ideas:


Bill Pearson

EDEN Adam-Brazendale-Shaun-McKenzie-Mike-Reid-Darius-Barkunas-and-Nick-Blakemore-1030x656

Reaseheath College’s dairy technologists celebrate first year success

EDEN Adam-Brazendale-Shaun-McKenzie-Mike-Reid-Darius-Barkunas-and-Nick-Blakemore-1030x656Twenty four trainee dairy technologists reached a significant career milestone when they completed the first year of their Eden training programme at Reaseheath College in Nantwich, Cheshire, earlier this month.

The technologists work for leading companies in the dairy industry and attend the Eden International Dairy Academy for block release training, spending the rest of their time in their workplace. They will graduate with a globally recognised foundation degree in dairy technology on completion of their three year course. The education initiative is supported by key players in the dairy industry and is aimed at producing world-class staff. There are currently 75 trainees on the programme.

While at college, the technologists gain hands-on practical experience in Reaseheath’s industry-standard, food and dairy processing plant. The facilities enable the students to see food production from start to finish and also to carry out new product development.

Three of the first year cohort were in line for special honours as they celebrated completing their initial year of study.

Darius Barkunas, who works for Arla Foods, was selected as the Best Practical Student. The 27 year-old began working for Arla in Settle, Yorkshire, six years ago as an agency worker and has progressed to becoming a process technician. He was selected for his practical skills and for his ability to explain his practical knowledge to others.

He said: “Being offered a place on the Eden programme was like winning the lottery and I cannot thank my company enough for supporting me. Coming to Reaseheath is brilliant. The lecturers are totally dedicated to their job and the facilities are wonderful.”

Mike Reid, 29, a Dairy Crest employee, received the Best Academic Student award. for consistently achieving outstanding exam and assignment results and for his exceptional attention to detail. Mike has worked for Dairy Crest in Gloucester for 11 years and has immersed himself in the academic content of his course despite having done no serious studying since his ‘A’ levels in 2002.

He said: “Coming to college after such a long break was a big cultural challenge but everyone at Reaseheath has been extremely friendly and helpful. I am delighted that my company has chosen to support me through this qualification.”

Shaun McKenzie, 18, from Muller Dairy was voted the Dairy Culture Student of the Year after receiving the student vote for the way he supports his colleagues. The former apprentice is now a permanent staff member at Muller’s Market Drayton base and is mentored by Eden graduate Mitchell Tullett.

Presenting the awards, Adam Brazendale, Business Development Manager for the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink said: “Eden students are at the forefront of an exciting future for the UK dairy industry. This is a unique training programme aimed at supporting and developing skills within the dairy processing industry.

“The Eden programme is an excellent qualification and we are proud to have Reaseheath as our Dairy Champion for Food and Drink.”

Read more about the Eden programme here.

Level 3 Food work experience 2014

Level 3 Food Technology students get a taste of the workplace…

Level 3 Food work experience 2014

On the 19th May, Level 3 Food Technology students embarked on their four week work experience placements. Students were placed in a variety of different settings and worked in a range of food related fields.

Here is what some of the students had to say about their experiences:

orient express work experience

The impressive Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

Jack: “I spent my work experience placement on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.  This involved delivering 5* standard waiting-on service to all the passengers. I served customers an array of different food courses up and down the length of the moving train and  developed my skills in customer service and broadened my knowledge of a the workings of a prestigious professional business.”

Martyn: “For my work experience placement I worked at Llanllyr Source Water bottling company. This involved working in the production department, packing bottles at the end of the production line along with working in the office writing up policies and procedures. I also developed my skills in customer service, answering phone calls and taking orders.”

Emma: “I did my work experience at Reaseheath College, working with the Technical Manager looking at food quality. I found the experience particularly- providing a real insight into the food industry and helped me decide the specific areas I’d like to work in.”mondelez logo

Belle: “I was at Mondelēz International, a large sweets and chocolate conglomerate, working on products for Cadbury and Milka. The majority of my work was on a secret project ‘Couch’, there was a lot of confidential work involved! I enjoyed the whole experience, it was lovely to hold detailed conversations with important people in the company and it was great to put the information I have learnt at college into a real work situation.”

Harry: “I worked at Palethorpes (Pork Farms ltd.) where I worked in the engineering and building services department. I learnt many useful things such as the function of bearings and AC and DC motors along with the difference between hydraulics and pneumatics and where they are used in the factory. I also learnt how to TIG Weld and how to wire a 240 vault plug. I also participated in a few maintenance tasks. I really enjoy working in engineering and it has made me want to pursue a career in engineering even more than before.

Joe: “I worked at David Williams Cheese, a cheese processing facility. My main role involved grating and blending cheese; I found my experience very beneficial and feel it has prepared me for a career in the dairy industry.”sauce queen

Jess: “I worked at The Sauce Queen, which I really enjoyed. I pretty much did everything in the company, I cooked the sauces, potted the sauces, paperwork such as traceability, internet orders and booking food festivals for the upcoming weeks. I worked at BBC Good Food Show which was an amazing experience; I learnt how to sell the product to the public which is hard work at first. I chose to go to The Sauce Queen as it’s a small company at the moment but growing quickly, I knew that I would learn a lot from it.”

Liam: “I spent my work experience at Primebake. Throughout the four weeks I have broadened my knowledge of mass food production, learning how flatbreads are made on a large scale. The whole process is quite complex and has made me appreciate the skills required for this type of job.”

Grant: “Throughout the past four weeks, I have learnt a lot about the meat industry and butchery – I actually boned out carcasses, offal and guts as well! I learnt about burger and sausage manufacture as well as linking and pressing burgers, ready for the shop. Being at Clewlows has definitely given me a fantastic opportunity to go into the meat and butchery industry and I am thankful for them to have been given this opportunity of work experience with such a great business.”

Rachel: “For my work experience I went to Belton Cheese, a family owned cheese company based near Whitchurch. It was a fantastic experience to work within a food company and become part of the team during my time there. I worked within the laboratory testing cheese and milk on a day-to-day basis. The skills that I gained during the four weeks will come in useful with my chosen career path within the dairy industry.”

muller wiseman logo Sophie: “My work experience was at Müller Wiseman Dairies, Manchester. I spent my time working on  a project focused around Health & Safety and Chemical onsite. I gained an insight into a production environment, seeing the full process of milk production including semi-skimmed, whole milk and organic. I took part in site audits and meetings. The main thing I took part in was COSHH (Control Of Substances Hazardous to Health) risk assessments and Klenzan chemical training. I feel my work experience has really helped to prepare me for  a life in the dairy industry and further enhanced my desire to work within this field.”


Belle Baldwin, one of the level 3 students who kindly collated all above work experience recollections together commented: “ from my experience and talking to other students, our work experience placements have really broadened our industry related skills, giving us a real feel for the types of roles the food industry has to offer. Quite number of students impressed their respective employers to such an extent that they have been offered further employment  proceeding the four weeks, which is brilliant news all round!

“All students would like to say a huge thank you to the companies who provided us with such great work experience opportunities.”

dissertations and projects

Dissertations and professional projects…

dissertations and projects

I’m sure all our degree students will agree; it has been rather an intense few weeks with regards to dissertations and professional projects!  These self-driven pieces of work are generally considered to be the toughest thing that you will do at degree level and I just want to congratulate you all on what I thought was an amazing crop of projects this year. The quality of the ideas, application of critical analysis and professional reporting was very high indeed. Many of you have also demonstrated iron will and a cool head under great pressure in the face of really tough questioning from us.

Personally speaking, I have found your extended pieces of work to be really quite fascinating and thoroughly appreciate all your hard work. We also learn a lot from your project work and although exhausting, i’ve found it a rewarding an enriching process to be involved in your final assessments.

Most of you are probably glad it is all over… but take a moment as you celebrate the end of your course to reflect on the people you met, the things you learned and those that helped. If you can apply yourselves in work, future study and your lives beyond Reaseheath as well as you have demonstrated in these projects there is very little that will prevent you succeeding.

You should be immensely proud! We certainly are.

Well done to all!

Martin Anderson (…celebrating the end of the year with strong coffee and marking!)

Karen Betts

A day in the life of… Karen Betts


Karen BettsReaseheath student Karen Betts chatted to staff at Reaseheath Food Centre and gave us an insight into a ‘typical day’ as Retail Technical Manager for Greggs PLC.

Here’s what she had to say:

 To give you a little background, as the a Retail Technical Manager for Greggs PLC, I currently manage four Food Safety Managers, with the primary purpose of my role being to coordinate the Food Safety Team and systems management within over 800 shops. I look after the North & Pennine Regions covering all of Scotland, Cumbria, the North East down to the Hull and North West including North Wales. As well as our own delicious cakes, we also make sandwiches fresh in store every day –  over 30 million across Greggs stores per year! We also provide freshly baked savouries, as well as preparing other hot snacks and drinks.

Now on to the day…

7:00am – Mobile phone alarm wakes me, I automatically grab my phone from under my pillow and press the off button. I contemplate going back to sleep.

7.30am – Kids all ready to go, packed lunches, P.E. kits, diary signed, kiss on the cheek, out of the door they go. Quick piece of toast with chocolate spread.   Hot shower and teeth, fresh start to the day. Glad I ironed my suit the previous day.

7:45am – Check emails at home to see what has come in overnight, customer complaint, power cut, break in, never a dull moment! After checking in and seeing that there’s nothing crazy going on, I then leave to visit a new shop opening, checking the shop has a calibrated probe, essential food safety and hygiene log books, the correct contract and documentation for pest control, that the shop has been registered to the local authority as a food business and standard procedures are being operated to the standard required.

9.00am – Arrive at the bakery to go through my emails and catch up on daily correspondence – understanding what people need and getting back to them with a resolution for their issues. I spend about an hour scanning e-mails asking and providing deliverables.

10.00am – I contact the four Food Safety Managers by telephone to check what they are doing, asking questions regarding budgets, customer complaints and environmental visits.  Communication with the team is an essential element of a Technical Manager’s role. The team needs to feel they are being looked after.

11.30am –The phone calls are continuous through the day and the questions keep arriving…

The Environmental Health Officer from the local council has been into my shop; what do I do with the report?

The electricity has gone off in my shop; should I close?

Can I bring my own hand cream into the shop as my hands are starting to hurt?

I have sent a member of staff home as they have reported sickness, when can they come back?

Where do we get blue plasters from?

12.15pm – Time for lunch, we are encouraged not to eat at our desks so it’s off to the staff canteen.  I try to sit on my own and read a good book, whilst I eat. Slightly unsociable.

12:45pm – All shops need to have all products microbiologically tested, this is a bit of the job I really enjoy.  Bacteria will naturally be present in foods. Looking for different types of bacteria and then assessing the levels is a process used to ensure that hygiene standards and quality criteria are being met.  The presence of specific types of bacteria can indicate differences in handling and storage conditions in an establishment, so a little bit of detective work is sometimes needed.

1.30pm – I am now putting together a power point ready for a presentation for the Senior Team for one of my Regions, explaining the recent changes in roles and what level of service my team can now provide.

2:30pm – Phone conference to discuss Greggs & charity donations.

3.30pm – Phone call from an Environmental Health Officer asking about details regarding the contact time for our sanitiser on a prep bench surface.  Discussed our procedures and explained how these link to our HACCP system.  The EHO is more than happy with the explanation.

4:00pm – Check through all KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for my shops, review the figures and compare with previous years.  Actually quite like figures and graphs!

5.30pm – I leave the office, look at my phone which says the word “bread”, which is my prompt to bring some bread home, hubby is not one for texting!

6pm – It’s been a long but successful day – plus tomorrow, I have a busy schedule packed with interviews, meetings, presentations and maybe some time to study for my advanced HACCP qualification. Love my job!

Karen Betts

Karen completed her Certificate in Higher Education Food Industry with Management at Reaseheath and we look forward to welcoming her back to the food department in when she will begin her FdSc  in Food Manufacturing with Business Management.

Karen Betts