We like to cover every angle in our Food Drink Dine pages, from restaurants and cafes, to stalls and special outdoor events, but we rarely get the chance to share a story like this one! Thanks to the parents who contacted us – it’s great to sing the praises of someone who makes delicious, nutritious food for the younger generations in our community.

by Jacqui Hensel

Sharyn Kennedy is a self-confessed foodie and her most recent venture as the Maleny State High School Canteen Convenor follows a varied career that includes running cafes, restaurants and hotels. 

As a past Maleny High School student and having lived within the hinterland community off and on for most of her life, Sharyn feels she has a good understanding of the diverse tastes of the student body. 

Having run the canteen previously under the P & C, when the opportunity arose to take the canteen on as a private business, Sharyn jumped at the chance. Now it is her own venture; she knows the rewards she will reap at the end of the week, knowing she has provided good value in quality, home style food.

“Maleny is such a diverse community so catering to everyone’s needs is important to me. So far, the changes have been really well received. Just lots of homemade, really fresh food. We are adding a range of delicious and healthy salad bowls and wraps to the menu now for summer,” Sharyn says excitedly.

“I have always been in hospitality on and off. I have managed a couple of restaurants and hotels in Brisbane, and I had my own café up in Coolum about ten years ago. 

“I have also worked outside of hospitality, but something always brings me back to it. Usually, a really good opportunity crops up, and I just go with it,” she laughs.

“I just love good food. I’ve always loved entertaining and feeding people. I wanted to share my love of good food with the kids. 

“I also think It’s important to have healthy, fresh food in a school environment. Especially in high school, as the kids have a lot on their shoulders, I like to support their nutritional needs. I also like to make sure the prices are affordable too,” Sharyn explains.

“It’s not hard to make nice, quality homestyle food, which is my goal, to offer that choice. The response has been phenomenal. I can’t believe how much support I’ve gotten from the kids and the teaching staff. I’m feeding so many of the teachers!” she laughs.

“At least 85% of the food on offer is made here. The bolognaise and butter chicken are my recipes and clear favourites. I also take the opportunity to make seasonal changes to the menu. I am using some of the produce from the school agriculture department like eggs, beans, potatoes and beetroot. 

“I am catering for vegetarian and gluten-free dietary needs which can always be preordered. The kids (and staff!) know that whatever they get from the canteen, it will be good,” Sharyn says confidently.

Sharyn encourages the kids to try something they haven’t eaten before and to be more adventurous foodwise. 

“I love the kids and getting to know them all by name. I love the banter –  they are awesome kids.

“I would like to be able to include some hospitality students in the future. Now that the canteen is a registered kitchen there are opportunities for growth in outside catering. Which is where students might be able to learn and develop real world hospitality skills,” explains Sharyn.

“We are doing breakfast, and both lunches every day, so the kids have lots of opportunities to get something yummy. But I also enjoy the flexibility of working for myself.

“I’m looking forward to seeing this enterprise continue to grow. I get really excited about setting new menu items and using fresh, seasonal produce. It’s full-on, but it’s fun too. I love working ten minutes from home and being back in the Maleny community again,” Sharyn concludes.