Published 05 December 2023

A dedicated Council chef who has worked in restaurants around the world serving the finest cuisine has been named Scottish School Chef of the Year 2023.

Donald McInnes, who joined West Dunbartonshire Council in 2019, won the prestigious award after embarking on a mission which saw him change the outdated perception of school dinners by revolutionising the way the school kitchen operates and the ingredients in school meals.

Donald McInnes in school kitchen

Donald saw off competition from school chefs around the country at the Scottish School Food Awards 2023, which rewards excellence in education foodservice across the country and promotes schools that prioritise well-being, sustainability and the provision of high quality food and nutrition.

In addition to changing the way pupils think about school meals, Donald was a key player in the authority being the first urban council in Scotland to achieve the Food for Life Here Bronze Award for the high standard of school meals served in education establishments. The team were recognised for serving freshly made school meals from Scottish/UK ingredients, including sustainably farmed meat and fish, free range eggs as well as produce free from genetically modified ingredients and undesirable additives. 

And despite impressing world leaders with his culinary skills in previous jobs, Donald said he prefers his current role as he finds it much more rewarding.

Donald said: “I am absolutely delighted to win this award, which is not just for me but the whole Facilities Management Team. We all work so hard in ensuring our food is high quality, tasty and nutritious.  I can honestly say I love my job and much prefer working in schools than top notch hotels.  To be working alongside such a great team and more importantly to be working with top quality fresh produce every day and seeing the children enjoy the food we serve, is just brilliant.

“When I worked at Clydebank High School, I had a great relationship with the pupils and staff which is very important, and I like to get their feedback on what they would like. All feedback, regardless, is important and I love it when the kids tell me their favourite meals. I enjoy bringing my enthusiasm and passion for real food into the school environment.

“The school kitchens are well looked after and are developing into a positive change for our kids to come into our dining hall to get a nutritious meal which is well balanced and full of flavour.”

Councillor Daniel Lennie, Convener of Corporate Services, said: “The council is delighted Donald has won this prestigious award which highlights his commitment and that of his colleagues in Facility Management to providing high quality, freshly prepared nutritious food to children and young people in our education establishments. We are very proud of our school meals and this award is testament to the quality of the food we serve ensuring all school meals are healthy, sustainable and locally sourced. I thank Donald for his passion and commitment in transforming school meals in West Dunbartonshire.”

Councillor Michelle McGinty, Vice Convener of Corporate Services, said: “Congratulations to Donald who is rightly proud of being named School Chef of the Year.  Donald has a real passion for food and understands the importance of children getting a nutritious, well-balanced and healthy meal at all our educational establishments. We cannot underestimate the importance of high quality school meals which helps children concentrate, achieve and learn.”  

Members of the Awards Advisory Board, said: "Donald is a most deserving winner of the Scottish School Chef of the Year Award. In addition to ensuring the production of outstanding food for all pupils in his school, his efforts have had a significant and positive impact on the broader culture at Clydebank High and indeed others in the West Dunbartonshire area. With over 30 year’s experience in kitchens across the UK and Europe, our winner is hugely respected and well-liked throughout his school and the wider chef community."