Waitrose & Partners Weekend Issue 600

12 MAY 202 2 2 NEWS&VIEWS Food to inspire a new generation A charity that puts chefs in school kitchens is playing its part in encouraging children to enjoy what they eat at school and at home, writes Anna-Marie Julyan Today, more than one in 10 children arrive at primary school obese and by the time they start secondary school it’s one in four. In areas with high socio-economic deprivation, that second number rises to one in three, with children facingmalnutrition as well as obesity, according to the National Child Measurement Programme. Chefs in Schools co-founder Nicole Pisani and head chef JoannaWeinberg, know only too well the importance of a school dinner. “It’s somuchmore than a filler to get a child through the day – inmany of our schools, lunch can be the only chance a child gets to eat,” they say. Chefs in Schools launched in 2018 and operates in 58 state primary and secondary schools in London, Bournemouth and She eld, focusing on areas of high social deprivation. And there are plans to spread further afield. It recruits chefs to cook in those kitchens and trains existing teams to source andmake nutritious meals from scratch. Packet mixes are rejected in favour of fresh, seasonal food and their school kitchens cook a culturally diversemix reflecting the sta themselves. There’s SouSou’s burek (Turkish baked, filled pastry), Toni’s jollof rice with pot-roast chicken and Nicole’sMaltese potatoes. These tried and trustedmeals enjoyed by thousands of school kids every day are now distilled into a book, Feed Your Family: Exciting Recipes fromChefs in Schools, proving just how open children are to trying new foods with the right encouragement and education. The idea for the charity first began in London’s Hackney, after Nicole left her job as head chef at Ottolenghi restaurant Nopi in Soho in 2013 to join Gayhurst Primary School, a Leap Federation of Schools (Gayhurst Community School, Mandeville Primary and Kingsmead Primary). “I spent 20 years working in restaurants and thought it would be a good idea to find out what else I could do,” says Nicole. “I felt I wanted to pay it forward with the skills – I wanted the job to be rewarding as well as satisfying. Then randomly I said yes to a text and ended up at Gayhurst.” The text was fromHenry Dimbleby, a parent at the school, author of the School Food Plan and, most recently, the government-commissioned National Food Strategy. Along withNicole and Leap executive head teacher Louise Nichols, he became a co-founder of Chefs in Schools, which also has high profile patrons such as Dame Prue Leith and YotamOttolenghi. Sited in the garden of Mandeville Primary, a former caretaker’s red brick cottage has been converted to the Hackney School of Food where a class of 27 seven-to-eight-yearolds froma neighbouring school prepare a Neolithic pot stew and spelt honey & oat bread (they’re studying the Stone Age). It’s a space for the charity and the whole borough, as well as organisations such as Migrateful, which run cookery classes led bymigrant chefs. Gardener Lidka D’Agostino shows o the garden’s 28 di erent fruit trees – varieties of apples, pears, plums, damsons, gages, apricots and figs – some espaliered neatly against a south-facing wall. There’s also a fire pit and pizza oven, which are used in cookery lessons. “We’ve got raspberries and strawberries, garlic and onions, purple sprouting broccoli and tomatoes,” she says. “Loads of di erent herbs like oregano, bay, rosemary, sage, mint, thyme, lemon verbena, andmeadow flowers, because we have a beehive here.” She points to the biggest tree in the garden’s centre: “Our wild cherry tree. We use the cherries andmake jam– it’s really delicious – quite tart and not too sweet.” TASTE TEST Frankie, Gifty, Nicole and Lidka eating purple sprouting broccoli ( left); SouSou’s burek (below left); Toni’s jollof rice with potroast chicken (below) Photography: Richard Cannon, Issy Croker, Getty Images Cover photography: Cristian Barnett, Mark Williams, Photography: Sam Folan, Food stylist: Sian Davies. Prop stylist: Wei Tang