2023 Award Winners

The results of the 2023 Scottish schools have been revealed. The ceremony, which took place on the evening of Wednesday 29th November at George Watson’s College, brought together schools and suppliers from throughout the education sector in Scotland.

After 40 years running kitchens in leading hotels and restaurants, Donald McInnes has gone back to school to win a major award for creating “outstanding” children’s meals.

Described as having transformed the meals service at Clydebank High School, he has been crowned Scotland’s School Chef of the Year 2023. The award was presented at the Scottish School Food Awards (SFA) in Edinburgh last night.

In the private sector, Donald was once either Head Chef or Executive Chef at a range of prestigious venues, including Ayr Racecourse, the Malmaison Hotel, Western House Hotel in Ayr, the Hotel du Vin and Ingliston Country Club.

Judges of the awards, presented at a black-tie dinner at George Watson’s College, commented: “In addition to ensuring the production of outstanding food for all pupils, Donald’s efforts have had a significant and positive impact on the broader culture at their school and others in the area.

More than 90% of all dishes and sauces at Clydebank High School are made from scratch.

Under his guidance, the school has achieved the Food for Life Served Here Award, run by the Soil Association and funded by the Scottish Government to help local authorities to source fresh, local, sustainable food for school meals.

Scott Ackroyd of Chartwells Independent, the caterers at Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh, was Highly Commended in the category. Judges said: “With experience of working in hotels, restaurants, education and corporate services, Scott has reinvented his school’s menus over the last five years and built up a rapport with pupils to encourage them to try new dishes and expand their culinary horizons.”

Student Chef of the Year went to Amber Rissmann, 17, of Mearns Castle School in Newton Mearns. Mentored by Gary Townsend, Head Chef at One Devonshire Gardens in Glasgow, this year she beat 7,000 other young people from across the UK to reach the final of the FutureChef competition, which is organised by the Springboard charity.

Runner-up was Sarah Smart of Mackie Academy in Stonehaven, the school which provided last year’s SFA Student Chef of the Year winner, the then 15-year-old Phoebe Lawson.

Judges commented: “Both finalists have already achieved so much in their culinary lives, demonstrating huge enthusiasm and commitment to developing their skills and careers, and clearly have bright futures.”

Barrhead High School in East Renfrewshire, which makes all its food on the premises, retained the Foodservice Team category it won in the awards’ inaugural year in 2022. Its uptake of school meals is far higher than the national average.

One of its latest initiatives has been to offer a range of foods from around the world to encourage different culinary experiences. Pupils are also given tasting samples of items being considered for future menus.

Judges were impressed with Barrhead’s work around seasonality, incorporating food trends, diversity and inclusion, and providing for pupils with special dietary requirements.

The Edinburgh Academy Junior School and St Leonards School in St Andrews were Highly Commended in the category. Judges commented: “All the shortlisted schools are doing sterling work. It was great to see a real commitment to important aspects such as pupil engagement, health, supporting local suppliers, the provision of healthy choices and running theme days.”

Parkhill Secondary School in Glasgow’s Cumbernauld Road, which has a roll of fewer than 100 pupils, captured the Hospitality Education Award. Subjects there include hotel and cafe skills and cooking classes. The school has its own professional kitchen, cafe space and a mocked-up hotel bedroom. Its Enterprise Academy supports young people with Additional Support Needs.

The Education Wellbeing Award, won in 2022 by King Charles’s former school, Gordonstoun, this year went to Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh.

As part of a policy of ensuring any mental health issues can be identified and addressed, pupils are asked to complete a 20-second ‘mood check’ at least once a week.

Owen Macleod, 71, who runs Edinburgh City Council’s Cook School at Firhill was named Employee of the Year. His career has also included work at the state-run Trinity Academy secondary school in the capital, at hotels and restaurants in Canada and developing a bank of 3,000 recipes as Head Chef of a food service company.

The trophy in a surprise category – The Special Award – was given to Linda Richardson, catering manager at the Mary Erskine School in Edinburgh, a member of ESMS group of schools. For over 30 years Linda has worked with pupils, staff and various catering contractors, and was recognised for her special rapport with pupils, her subject knowledge and length of service.

Organisers had consulted colleagues of Linda’s in order to gather background information on her lengthy career at the school.

The unscheduled presentation drew such a reaction from guests that it is anticipated it will become a regular award category – with nominations invited from the sector – from next year onwards.

Meanwhile, the Lifetime Excellence Award, sponsored by Thomas Franks Scotland, was presented to Jayne Jones, formerly of Argyll and Bute Council’s Catering, Cleaning, Commercial Events and Food Strategy department.

A former National Chair of ASSIST FM, which represents all 32 local authorities in Scotland, Jayne has played a prominent role in a pilot programme, based at Oban Airport, in which meals are delivered to remote schools by drone.

Open to state-run, private and public schools throughout the country, the Scottish School Food Awards are judged by a panel off independent experts from across the education sector.

They are the first food and wellbeing awards for Scotland’s schools, celebrating those prioritising high quality food and nutrition and wellbeing programmes.

The Scottish School Food Awards 2023

The Student Chef of the Year Award, sponsored by Chartwells Independent:

Winner: Amber Rissmann, Mearns Castle School, Newton Mearns, East Renfrew-shire

Highly Commended: Sarah Smart, Mackie Academy, Stonehaven

The Foodservice Team of the Year Award, sponsored by Thomas Franks Scotland:

Winner: Barrhead High School, East Renfrewshire

Highly Commended:

The Edinburgh Academy Junior School
Merchiston Castle School, Edinburgh


St Leonard’s School, St Andrews
Strathallan School, Perthshire

The Hospitality Education Award, sponsored by Hub International and Inde-pendents by Sodexo:

Winner: Parkhill Secondary School, Cumbernauld Road, Glasgow


Highly Commended: Eastbank Academy, Shettleston, Glasgow
Lochend Community School, Easterhouse, Glasgow

The Wellbeing in Education Award, sponsored by Litmus Partnership

Winner: Merchiston Castle School, Edinburgh


Barrhead High School, Glasgow
Cargilfield Prep School, Edinburgh
George Watson’s College, Edinburgh

The Employee of the Year Award, sponsored by Pelican Procurement Services:

Winner: Owen McLeod, Catering Manager, City of Edinburgh Council


Dawn Meikle, Catering Assistant, George Watson’s College, Edinburgh
Darren Tonge, Catering Manager of Thomas Franks Scotland at St Leonard’s School, St Andrews
Karen Young, Senior Sous Chef, Chartwells Independent at The High School of Glasgow

The Scottish School Chef of the Year Award, sponsored by Inspire Catering

Winner: Donald McInnes, Clydebank High School

Highly Commended: Scott Ackroyd, Merchiston Castle School, Edinburgh


David Barnett, Independents by Sodexo
Gordon Stewart, Craigclowan School, Perth

The Special Award, sponsored by Fonetti: Linda Richardson, Catering Manager at The Mary Erskine School, Edinburgh

The Lifetime Excellence Award, sponsored by Thomas Franks Scotland: Jayne Jones


Media enquiries to Scott Thornton at Hotel PR. Tel. 07867-510451 or 0141 552 4800, em: