We are Stretching and Extending our Student’s Horizons at BSB
An interview with Victoria Smith, Head of the Primary School.
Victoria Smith joined the British School of Bucharest in 2015, acquired her PGCE and MA in International Education from the University of Sunderland in England and holds additional degrees in Spanish and Political Science.
Following on her passion for professional development and school improvement, Victoria is an accredited facilitator of the COBIS Programme for Middle Leaders which is delivered to delegates from around the world. She is also qualified as a Peer Accreditor, helping other international schools obtain COBIS accreditation. Victoria has over 20 years of experience working with children and in schools and prior to becoming a teacher and senior leader, had a background in social services and special educational needs.
How did the idea for the ‘So you think you can cook’ competition come about?
I sincerely believe that if a school is to be outstanding, it must not only support the development of children’s academic ability, but also their creativity. While some children might show aptitude in English, Maths and Science, others display their skills and artistry through Sport, Fine Arts and a range of other disciplines.
I think that children’s ability to innovate, problem-solve and to be resilient can sometimes be underestimated and therefore, this can limit the vision required to provide truly challenging and enriching experiences for them. Luckily at BSB, our seemingly ‘outlandish’ ideas for stretching and extending our student’s horizons are met with support and enthusiasm, as can be seen in the incredible programmes run through our Innovation Hub, Design Technology and Art Studios. ‘So You Think You Can Cook’ is simply an extension of this – the utilisation of exceptional facilities and a robust curriculum to showcase yet another layer of our students’ excellence.
Your role at BSB is the Head of Primary. How did you get involved in the ‘So you think you can cook’ competition?
As a school leader, I believe it is necessary to take an active role in raising standards and to model the benefits of healthy, calculated risk-taking.
In my first year at BSB, I introduced the University courses ‘BSB Bistro Master Chef’ for children in Years 4-6 and ‘BSB Bistro Silver Service’ for students in Years 1-3 with the help of some skilled and adventurous colleagues, to jump start more active use of our Food Technology facilities. The premise for the ‘Master Chef’ course was that children would cook a main and side dish and then present this to a small panel of staff and parents to get feedback on their creations.
Children were provided with a basic recipe, as well as a range of fresh herbs and spices which they needed to smell and taste before independently deciding what, and how much, to add to their food.
What we learnt from this experience was that quite a few of our students had some keen intuition about food combinations and flavours, and that they had a remarkable ability to cope with the pressure and the organisational requirements of a timed, judged task. This not only inspired the refurbishment of facilities into the Food Technology Studio we know today, but also the idea that our young children were ready to take their skills to a much higher level. It was out of this that ‘So You Think You Can Cook?’ was born, and we took a gamble on assuming that there would also be children in Key Stage 3 that would be brave enough to meet the challenge. We were not disappointed!
Can you give us some details regarding the selection process and the competition rules?
It is our hope that as many children as possible participate in the competition. What we look for in their applications is a keen interest in food and cooking; a desire to learn and improve and a willingness to take risks.
The rules of the competition are not dissimilar to those of any game: children must behave safely, show good sportsmanship and respect the decisions of the judges. Those that may differ slightly from other competitions are generally related to health and safety issues specific to Food and Hygiene expectations.
You have some very special guest jurors, some which have been involved with the competition from the start. Can you tell us a bit about them?
Liviu Popescu, a judge on Master Chef Romania, restaurateur and Horeca entrepreneur has been an avid support and judge of ‘So You Think You Can Cook?’ since its maiden voyage in 2017. He has truly been an asset to this competition, not only because of his knowledge and expertise in the industry, but also because of his rapport with the children and willingness to help them elevate their skills.
Simona Pope, a renowned Romanian pastry chef, joined the competition as a judge in 2018 and impressed the children with her skills, knowledge and kind approach to challenging their thinking. Each child walked away from last year’s competition with at least one trick and idea they had not considered before their participation in SYTYCC. We are looking forward to seeing what she brings to them this year.
Our final judge is joining us for the first time this year. Though we will keep his name a surprise for the time being, he is an accomplished home cook with a fine repertoire of competition titles and cooking experiences. He also happens to be a part of our BSB team, and I cannot wait to see him in action with the children!
The competition will take place in the BSB food technology studio. In your opinion how important is the Food Technology course for Primary students?
Not only is cooking an essential skill for our students to cultivate as we prepare them for adulthood, but it also represents an excellent way of applying a whole range of concepts we learn in the classroom to real-life experience. In the Food Technology Studio, and in addition to food preparation and health and safety, we can explore the principles of:
- Science (sense, states of matter, forces, decomposition, nutrition, buoyance, etc.
- Maths (measuring, weighing, capacity, multiplying, fractions, decimals, calculating, budgeting, etc.)
- English (writing lists, giving and following instructions, recipes, adjectives, adverbs, commands etc.)
- Humanities (traditional foods of different cultures, seasonal/regional food sources due to locality and climate, sustainability, etc.)
- Art, design and presentation
…and much more!
Do you know how to cook? Do you have a ‘signature dish’?
Cooking is one of my many passions and is one that I wish I could practise more often. I love to cook all kinds of food, from a variety of genres, countries, cultures and traditions, but I think my strength lies in appetizers.
The appetizer I make most often is ‘Roasted Pepper Mushroom Pate’, an original recipe often served with a fresh, French baguette or slightly toasted, garlic flat breads. But, my all time favourite has to be ‘Fresh, Fried Ravioli (stuffed with chili, parmesan, figs and mushrooms) served with homemade, sundried tomato pesto dipping sauce.