A school dinner lady who has served up over half a million meals to generations of youngsters at a Gwynedd village school is hanging up her apron after 35 years.
Mum of three Rhian Parry arrived at Ysgol Y Gorlan, in Tremadog, to cover for the school cook and never left but this month she will serve up her legendary cheesecake for the last time.
Rhian, from Porthmadog, who has worked under four headteachers at the school has just had her long service recognised by Gwynedd-based food wholesaler Harlech Foodservice.
She was presented with a bottle of bubbly, a box of chocolates and a bouquet of flowers by a familiar face, Ursula Scurrah-Price, once a pupil at the school and now Harlech’s Gwynedd Business Development Manager for Health, Care and Education.
Auntie Rhian, as she has been known to hundreds of Tremadog children, said: “I was working in the canteen at a school in Porthmadog and came here on relief because the cook was going into hospital for a minor operation and I’ve been here ever since.
“I had always worked in catering , in hotels and cafes, and it was ideal for me because I had three young children.
“We always like to use local produce whenever we can and I order every week and of course I remember Ursula when she was a pupil here. She was a lovely girl and always well-behaved.
“I order the food in from Harlech every week, including the pizzas which are very nice and they’re one of the children’s favourites.
“I’ve enjoyed being here. It’s a lovely school and you get to meet everyone and even now people come up to me and call me Auntie Rhian.”
One of Rhian’s children followed in her footsteps and worked as a chef but she has decided now is the right time to go and she can spend more time with her grand-daughter in Penrhyn Bay.
Ursula said: “I have fond memories of my time here and Auntie Rhian who was always lovely to us and I enjoy the fact that we supply the food here and to all the Gwynedd schools including Ysgol Eifionydd where I was also a pupil.
“We use local suppliers wherever possible and because we are based in North Wales at Llanystwmdwy here in Gwynedd and have a depot in Chester as well we are in an ideal position to supply schools across the region.
“It’s not just a question of delivering supplies, we also have to look at the nutritional value of what we provide because this is about healthy eating and at the same time keeping the children interested in what they’re eating.
“It’s no good providing nutritious food that they don’t like because they just won’t eat it so we have to make sure it is tasty as well because much of what we do now, particularly with schools and healthcare is about environmental and social benefit.
“That’s a big consideration for us and it’s the right thing to do and at the same time we want to give them nutritious food they want to eat and wherever possible we source that food as locally possible so that the money spent stays in Wales.”
The children at Ysgol Y Gorlan certainly enjoy their school dinners and Erain Machin, 10, said: “We will be sad to see Auntie Rhian go. The food here is really, really nice, especially her cheesecake.
“Gwern Pugh, nine, added: “I like the flapjacks we get every two or three weeks and I like the curry – Auntie Rhian is a very good cook.”
Classroom assistant Eleri Parry, another former pupil, said: “It will be sad when Rhian goes. She’s been a big part of the school and she’s my godmother as well and I came to the school.
“I always liked her Sunday lunch and her cheesecake is the highlight of everyone’s week – you always see the staff lining up when it’s on the menu.”
Harlech Foodservices delivers to schools across North Wales with major contracts with Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham as well as Gwynedd and during last year’s summer holidays they also supplied food for out-of-term activities at schools across North Wales, including Anglesey.
Harlech operate from bases at Criccieth, in Gwynedd, Chester and Merthyr Tydfil and between the three locations, the company employs around 200 staff and runs a fleet of vehicles to deliver up to 5,000 product lines to cafés, restaurants, pubs and public sector customers across Wales, Shropshire, the Midlands and the North West.
For more on Harlech Foodservices go to https://www.harlech.co.uk/