At The Outdoor Education Group, we have a lot of mouths to feed, with up to 1,000 students out on program with us any given week, plus our team members! Lily Costantino has been with The Outdoor Education Group's Catering team for over four years and is a star planner. She can often be spotted in the Operations shed, carefully selecting the correct food items for students and our team to enjoy while they're exploring the outdoors. Lily has to tick all the boxes, with our meals being appropriate, inclusive, tasty and nutritious.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE CATERING TEAM?
During any week of the year, we will have up to 1,000 plus students out on program, each requiring three meals a day plus snacks. The Outdoor Education Group's Catering team manages and provides the food for all our programs, from overnight campouts to our annual expeditions. We ensure the right food is allocated to the right students. Our recipes are designed with both nutrition and common dietary requirements in mind – we make sure at least half the meals for our programs are vegetarian and include vegan, gluten-free, and halal options. I'm responsible for purchasing and stock taking and work closely with the finance team.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE?
First thing in the morning, I head over to our logistics shed. I review our stock to ensure there are no issues like missing items. Once I get to my desk, I confirm orders for the week through our Program Management Platform. Our team receive listings for student dietary requirements, check them against our menus, and I ensure we have packed and prepared the right items. After this, I order all the stock we need, with some suppliers requiring bulk orders a term out. Often, I will have to order fresh items like fruit or vegetables closer to the commencement of program. The fantastic Logistics team will pick and pack the food items, sorting them by program, group and drop-off.
Post-program, we sort food returns and reuse any untouched food to reduce waste. We review feedback from students, school staff and our field team; we keep track of this, look for trends and make necessary adjustments.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO THE CATERING FIELD?
Having grown up in Eildon, I worked in hospitality for many years. Hospitality is big here because the region is a tourist area. I actually went on one of The Outdoor Education Group's programs when I was in Year 9 and my mum worked here for many years, so I knew something about the organisation. The Outdoor Education Group is a great employer out here because they offer such a variety of jobs. I saw an opportunity and went for it! Over the years, I've supported catering in Western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales, but as our teams have grown, my focus is on Victoria these days.
WHAT ARE THE SKILLS AND ATTRIBUTES REQUIRED FOR A MEMBER OF THE CATERING TEAM?
Organisation! I quickly learned if I was not well organised with menus and placing orders, the job could be very stressful; this is why I spend much of my time looking ahead at future programs. An eye for detail is also important; input one incorrect number and it could be a disaster!
HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR PROGRAMS?
Generally, the camps-based kitchen staff will cater for most of the centre-based camp programs. We will manage the catering for an overnight campout if required, typically for younger students, so we pick something both easy to make and enjoyable for the students. Younger students, in particular, are less likely to try unfamiliar food, but we know they LOVE our spaghetti and meatballs! I also learnt very quickly Year 7 students do not like spicy food!
Journey programs are our main focus. We try to have menus locked in far in advance, as the food quantities can be very high.
Expedition programs involve the most planning from the Catering and Logistics teams. We start planning these months out, pack the food over several weeks and have a schedule for when the food leaves the catering shed. Often with large extended programs, all the food doesn't fit in our shed, so we have to plan accordingly with food being collected and more deliveries arriving. All expeditions will include fresh food as well; this will be included in the program outline for the Course Coordinator to follow, picking up and dropping it off at predetermined locations.
Last year we had a few programs which included over 20 fresh food pickups each, all running at the same time – we were picking up at stores from Mansfield to Omeo and everywhere in between! Buying local, where we can, is incredibly important to The Outdoor Education Group.
WHAT ASPECTS OF YOUR ROLE DO YOU ENJOY MOST?
I enjoy creating menus for new students every week. Sometimes, we need to get very creative with our recipes as, due to Food Safety laws, we cannot send anything out in the field requiring refrigeration. I also enjoy working alongside our Dietaries Coordinator, Ruby, who has taught me a huge amount about nutrition.
We use almost 80,000 muesli bars per year and are currently on our 6th variety since I started, as they keep getting discontinued!
Our trail mix is made to order, creating the perfect mix for us as there isn't anything else on the market that doesn't contain nuts.