Leon co-founder Henry Dimbleby has teamed up with chef Nicole Pisani and head teacher Louise Nichols to launch Chefs in Schools, which aims to train restaurant chefs to transform food.
The seeds of the scheme were sown in 2014, when Dimbleby tweeted that Gayhurst Community School, his son’s primary in Hackney, need a new head cook. Pisani, then head chef at Yotam Ottolenghi’s NOPI, spotted the post and applied to take on the new culinary challenge.
Chefs in Schools will see chefs not only training and heading up school kitchen brigades in order to raise standards in the canteens, but also run food lessons – from growing through to cooking – for pupils and teachers. High-profile bakers of the scheme include Ottolenghi, Wahaca co-founder Thomasina Miers, and Sustain patron Prue Leith.
Dimbleby told The Daily Telegraph that Pisani: “has shown that by using restaurant techniques you can serve better food at a lower cost. You can also teach people about cooking and the food culture and really improve children’s life chances.” According to The Guardian, her kitchen crew now cooks ‘everything from scratch and bake fresh bread daily’, while pupils are now ‘taught to butcher chickens and cook over fire pits in the playground.’
Two more Hackney have since taken on restaurant chefs and the project is looking for at least 100 more, in London and beyond, to sign up over the next five years. The Guardian reports that chefs’ retraining will be supported by the likes of Dishoom, Wahaca, Murano, the River Cafe and Moro.
Chefs In Schools differs from the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts’ Chefs Adopt A School programme, in which professional cooks are visitors at schools to teach cookery voluntarily, as the kitchen wizards in the new scheme quit their day/night job to be employed by the school.
Schools and chefs can find out how to sign up at www.chefsinschools.org.uk
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