Ask Vanessa Copley if healthy food can also taste good and the answer is emphatic. “Of course it can!”

One of two new Chefs at St Columba Anglican School, Vanessa is passionate about serving fresh, delicious food to young people. “I love to serve healthy food to kids. To instil healthy eating habits from a young age.”

Vanessa now runs the newly rebranded SCAS Canteen, The Lunchbox. Starting next term, students will be treated to a new look menu with plenty of exciting additions, plus some of the old favourites. Most of the dishes will be prepared on site from locally sourced ingredients. “Fresh and local, that’s the key,” Vanessa says.

Vanessa has been a chef for 22 years. She began her career in Port back in 1996, but has worked around the world, at the Whistler ski resort in Canada, the Olympic Games in Vancouver and as a Sous Chef at the Marriott on the Gold Coast.

“But Port’s my home town,” she insists. “Most people would know me from Caramels at Cathie. I was a chef there for the last four years.”

You might wonder why a chef with those credentials would leave the restaurant scene to run the newly revamped canteen at SCAS. The answer is simple. “It’s the kids. Serving quality, healthy food that they line up for. Seeing them light up when they spot something new on the menu.”

And there’s plenty on that menu to delight the harshest of food critics. Two styles of pizza will be made on site using fresh ingredients. The frozen fruit pops are homemade with 100% fruit and no added sugar. There are gluten free and vegetarian options galore. Sushi every Thursday if you don’t mind.

“We’re trying to keep things simple but having quality food made on site from fresh, healthy ingredients,” Vanessa says. “We’ve also increased the portion sizes so it’s better value for money.”

And Vanessa’s favourite dish? “The chicken pesto pasta salad. It’s been extremely popular on the specials board.”

What about the reaction from the kids? That gets a smile. “Everyone’s loving it.”

The new menu will be on the board at the start of term two. (Click here for a sneak peek … Shhh!)