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Study Suggests That Most Packed Lunches Are Unsafe

A team of researchers who inspected over seven hundred lunch boxes discovered that the majority of their contents posed a possible health hazard.

Scientists in America visited a number of pre –school childcare providers on three separate occasions, checking the temperature of hundreds of different yoghurts, sandwiches and other perishable foods.

They were surprised to discover that 99 percent of diary produce, 99 percent of vegetables and 97 percent of meats were kept at temperatures that were unsafe.

Despite the fact that 12 percent of lunches were stored in fridges and almost half contained an ice pack, only 22 out of 1,361 were judged to be at a safe temperature.

The report is the first of its kind to assess the condition of packed lunches ninety minutes before lunchtime. Harmful bacteria such as salmonella, staphylococcus aureus and E.coli, multiply when the temperature is between 40f – 140f.

It is recommended that any food which is kept within this temperature range for two hours or more should not be eaten. The mean temperature of the food that was examined was 64f – well within the so called ‘danger zone’.

A spokesman for the British Food Standards Agency explained that they don’t have specific guidelines for children’s packed lunches. Instead they urged the public to use their common sense and keep food chilled until it is required.

The researchers found little to suggest that either teachers or parents were taking the simplest precautions, such as making sure that meals were refrigerated as soon as the child arrives at school.

The researchers also recommended that parents should not use insulated bags as this can prevent them from cooling. They also suggested that water and juices could be frozen to help them stay fresh and chill other food.

It has been estimated that around one million people contract food poisoning in Britain every year. Of these 20,000 require treatment in hospital whilst 500 die.

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Cookery School News

French chef and ex-Platt at food festival 2012

If it’s award winners and celebrity chefs that float your boat when it comes to cookery courses then you could be in worse places than Accrington in a fortnight’s time for the Lancashire Food Festival 2012.

Over the weekend of 14th and 15th April Accrington Town Hall will pay homage to everything tip top about from food from up t’North, including the chance to see what all the fuss is with The Saddleworth Cheese Co and why Sean Wilson is now hanging about with cheese buffs rather than buff cheeses on The Street after 21 years as the hapless Martin Platt on Corrie.

No disrespect to David’s on-screen step-dad as was, but the big cheese headlining the festival on Sunday 15th is celebrated chef Jean-Christophe Novelli (the good lady wife is already gaga with anticipation of putting her flour in his hands) of television fame, not to mention his business empire which incorporates cookery schools and exclusive restaurants, which helped launch his career to earn him the nickname of the UK’s ‘favourite French Chef’.

Jean-Christophe’s career is exceptional. After leaving his native France in 1983 to make the short trip across La Manche, he spent a year as head chef of The Maltsters, a public house ran by Keith Floyd; Jean-Christophe took a hold of the reins whilst Keith was off shooting his TV shows, a path that the French chef would follow himself in years to come.

It wasn’t until thirteen years after his arrival on our shores that he would open his first London restaurant in Clerkenwell, Maison Nouvelli, swiftly followed by another three in the capital, culminating in Les Saveurs in Mayfair. Although making the UK his base over the last three decades, Jean-Christophe hasn’t neglected his home nation, France, on his way to an amazing four Michelin Stars and 5 AA Rosettes for quality establishments.

It is perhaps his masterclasses that keep everything fresh for the much-travelled chef; in his own words, they are his home, heart and life. Many of his cookery courses are demonstrations, but there hands-on events, too. The full list of cookery masterclasses is available at his personal website, where you can browse through cooking courses such as a Taste of the Med, drawing on locally-bred ingredients that give the dishes their unique flavour.

No doubt there’ll be much more at the Food Festival next month and he is fitting in a quick half-an-hour book-signing alongside his other duties, but the website does advise patience as they expect a bit more of a queue for the chef who became a celebrity through his French plaits, rather than the celebrity Platt who became a chef through his fromage.

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Cooking Courses News

West Yorkshire School Hosts Cookery Courses

Students at Todmorden High School in West Yorkshire learnt about sustainable growing, food production and also attended cookery courses at a recent ‘Food for Life’ day.

The event was designed to teach students about a number of different issues relating to food in support of the schools aim to achieve a Food for Life Partnership gold award.

Those pupils that attended the cooking courses learnt how to press apples, how to make delicious homemade bread and how to prepare fantastic summer smoothies.

The high school’s catering manager, who demonstrated to the students how to prepare fresh pasta, explained that this was the second such event that the school has hosted. He also explained that the aim was to help students make the right food choices by explaining where it comes from, how it’s grown and how we cook it.

The event was also supported by local producer Staups Lea Farm. Staff from the farm attended with a number of animals.

The day included activities in a variety of different subjects.

Geography students studied the food sustainability in various different countries whilst mathematics students spent time looking into nutritional analysis.

History classes studied the way in which food production has evolved over a number of years while art students were given a food based design task.

Organisers acknowledged that the day had been a great success and were quick to thank the students and staff who were involved.

The school continues to work hard to achieve its aim of a gold award. It is currently investigating organic produce and plans to add organic options to its lunchtime menu.

For more information of the Food for Life scheme please visit http://www.foodforlife.org.uk/

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Cookery Courses News

Greene King launches on-line courses for hospitality

Having worked behind many a pub bar in my time, or ‘front of house’ as the title goes these days instead of barman, as much as the social aspect of the job was second to none (and the free beer came in very handy on darts night, too) it has always been one of those jobs that learning to pull a pint was about as far as any tuition got.  And the pay was nothing to write home about, either, when you consider the unsociable hours front of house staff – and kitchen staff, nowadays – put in. If that doesn’t contradict the opening line.

This is obviously an area Greene King have recognised by launching their own eight module e-learning course, available for their staff, licensed managers and tenants. Although these courses are not free (show me a cookery course that is, with everyone wanting to learn to cook at home, these days) they are very reasonably priced at £15 a pop.

Are Greene King missing a trick?

Speaking about the e-learning courses launch, which covers everything from food safety level 2 to bar management, Simon Longbottom, MD for Greene King Pub Partners, although recognising the fact that all levels of staff working within their corporation will benefit from the online wet and dry sale tutelage, which encompasses drink, management, customer service and kitchen courses taught to nationally recognised qualification levels, it would seem that the medium of online training has been aimed at developing 17-30 year olds, who have grown up interactively learning in this manner.

What I can’t help feel, and have commented as such on the eatoutmagazine guide from whence the original article came to notice, is that Greene King has an opportunity to open up its doors to the hospitality sector as a whole; as the only entry to their food and drink courses are through their private portal, PubPartners.net, they are not availing themselves of the latent talent that exists within the pub and hotel retail sector generally.

One of the problems pubs have traditionally had, as well as the pressure of actually keeping their businesses afloat with the ridiculous taxation levels on wet-sale product, is staff retention.

I recall (just about) when I first officially worked behind a bar back in the summer of ’88, even your tax code changed so that you were paying duty on your tips, whether you were allowed to keep them or not.  That’s just one example of why staff see bar work as a part-time gig, but there are many, many others.

Food and drink courses could be so much more

Greene King have the chance to attract staff who genuinely want to progress in the hospitality industry, not just earn a few extra quid a week for a bit of pocket money, as the majority of barstaff front of house staff do. In order to do that, it should consider opening up its doors to willing third parties, even if it does charge a little extra for this additional service.

Not only will the food and drink courses be a development tool for its own staff but also provide a catchment net for the whole industry to serve as a vehicle to really put them ahead of the rest of the field. As an employer, they could not only reward staff as they go through the list of e-courses but also give staff an incentive to remain under their employ, making Greene King’s outgoings work doubly hard. This will also attract the cream of the crop from other industry sectors, turning this project into a true masterclass, rather than modules that staff might opt to take if they can be bothered or afford it.

That’s it – glad I got that off my chest. Thank you for listening.

p.s. – if Greene King do adopt this and want to thank me for pointing out, they can send me my commission cheque via the web-master here at cookerycourses.co.uk, thank you.

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News

Farmers Blame Fall In Organic Food Production On Supermarkets

Recent figures reveal that farmers have begun to scale back production of organic food due to fading interest from major supermarkets.

According to figures recently published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the amount of land in the UK being set up for organic production has fallen by 68 per cent in the last four years.

Throughout the UK there were just over 50,000 hectares being prepared for organic production in 2010. This was less than 50 per cent of the 2009 total which, in turn was significantly lower than the 158,000 hectares that were being prepared in 2007.

Sales of organic food have fallen in the last two years as consumers opt for cheaper alternatives in the face of higher food prices.

According to figures released by the Soil Association organic sales this year were £1.73billion, a fall of 5.9 per cent from £1.84billion.

Sales also fell by 12 per cent in 2009 which ended a sequence of consistent growth for the preceding 16 consecutive years.

The fall in demand has been attributed to the recession as families look to reduce the amount they spend on groceries.

The number of organic producers has also dropped from 7,900 to 7,600, with the loss of a tenth of the land used for organic production.

Nevertheless, some farmers believe that consumer interest in organic produce continues to be strong outside of the major supermarkets.

There are also farmers who believe that moving to organic farming can help to cut costs. A spokesman for a large farm co-operative in the South West recently claimed that whilst some farmers may think that they can’t afford to become organic because the market is constrained, if they really investigated it they would discover that there are ways of ensuring it is cost effective.

Another farmer who converted to organic production in 2005 claimed that he would be out of business now if he hadn’t made that choice.

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Cookery Course News

New Italian restaurant and cookery course opens in Edinburgh

We bring you news of a one-off deal of a cookery course, today, in the capital of Scotland. That’s right, we’re heading off north of the border to a newly established Italian restaurant and cookery school situated on the East London Street/Broughton Street junction in the heart of Edinburgh.

The whole concept of the restaurant is to bring Neapolitan fare, via a menu that rotates on a weekly basis, to the ancient city of Edinburgh through the medium of double AA rosette winning Italian chef Rosario Satore. It his direct guidance and influence that you’ll be under if you opt for this very special two and a half hour cookery class and a very real peep into the world of traditional Italian cooking.

The class itself will teach you, step by step, how to cook a three course meal with the real flavour of Southern Italy bursting through locally sourced Scottish ingredients. The cookery course will comprise one starter, the main and a classic Italian dessert, which, once you’ve prepared, served and cooked, you will then take through into the restaurant proper to sit down and mull over your culinary prowess with the other budding chefs, of which there will be a maximum of twenty per individual cookery class.

This cookery school is not just about the food, with Rosario. Yes, the ingredients stay true to the original Italian recipes but it is the fire and the passion of Italy that the award-winning chef infuses into his classes and his dishes that will make this a cookery lesson to remember.

The restaurant itself, Locanda De Gusti, literally translated meaning ‘a place where you come to taste’, is already starting to grow a reputation, not just for its cookery courses but also for its every day fare. The rotational menu encourages variety as a key ingredient to its menu, alongside which there’s the opportunity to indulge in fine Italian wines.

There is a cellar bar to boot, Serendipity, which offers a sort of tapas menu alongside what we would call micro-brewery beers, but, being Italian, they are ‘crafted’ beers – always do things with that bit of extra style, don’t you think? If you’re passing through Edinburgh and looking for a reasonably priced place to eat, their two course meal offered as a lunchtime or early evening sitting Tuesday to Friday and lunchtime only on a Saturday will set you back a mere £9.95.

And equally reasonably-priced is the cookery course – for a limited time, it is only £26 for the two and a half hour lesson instead of the usual £60, bookable through itison. For full details of the restaurant schedule and a bit more of an insight into the chef, the menu and the restaurant’s theme and conception, visit www.locandadegusti.com.

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News

Swindon Council To Consider Takeaway Ban

Swindon Town Council will consider introducing new planning regulations to prevent new fast food outlets from opening within a quarter of a mile of schools in the area.

The motion has been tabled with the intention of reducing the number of children that are overweight in the town. The plan is to help children avoid temptation and curb unhealthy eating habits.

Councillor Dale Heenan will propose that the new policy be introduced at the next planning committee. He explained that his intention is that planning officers will draft a policy that effectively bans fast food outlets from within a certain distance of a school.

Councillor Heenan’s view is that the issue should be debated in an open forum. If planning officers are able to draft a policy then the council would need to consult with residents to investigate whether or not they it is something that they would be willing to support.

If the idea is supported by the planning committee then the aim is for officers to begin work on the policy and report back in the New Year.

He has also suggested that the council should contact celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to ask if they would consider opening restaurants in Swindon, as well as possibly offering pupils healthy cookery courses.

Local GP and chairman of the national FDA, Dr Peter Swinyard explained that it’s really important that children eat a well balanced diet. From a medical perspective, Dr Swinyard supports the aim to reduce the amount of fast food that children consume.

However, a spokesman for the town’s business community claimed that the plan was slightly Draconian. Chris Watts feels that people should be able to make their own decisions about where they eat. His view is that plans such as these don’t address the root cause of the problem and, instead of restricting access; we should be looking more at education.

The Swindon proposal is very similar to a plan considered recently by councillors in Wrexham.

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Cooking Courses News

Chefs Association To Launch Nationwide Cookery Courses

The Craft Guild of Chefs plans to launch a range of nationwide cookery courses aimed at families, following a series of successful trials in Herford.

The association, in partnership with Zuidam and Premier Foods, recently held a trail course at Simon Balle School. Children were joined by their parents for a practical cookery course which focused on the fundamentals of cooking.

The course featured Matt Owens, an executive chef at Zuidam, and Mark Rigby, one of the senior chefs at Premier Foods. They each demonstrated their cookery skills and were on hand to answer questions.

These trials have proved so popular that the association now plans to launch the ‘family food appreciation’ courses nationwide in the New Year.

Owens explained that in the past, chefs have volunteered their time to enter schools and teach the children about cooking and food. Whilst these sessions have been well received by the children, the message regarding healthy eating is often lost since the children end up eating junk food at home.

This is one of the main reasons that the courses focus on educating the entire family.

Rigby claimed that most people tend to only think about food when they are hungry and don’t really contemplate planning meals. This tends to result in unhealthy snacking. He was also quick to point out that eighty per cent of children with obese parents will become obese themselves.

Every school that signs up will offered up to four cooking courses each year, which will be scheduled to coincide with the availability of seasonal produce.

If the school does not contain suitable facilities then the association will work with local firms to secure an alternative venue.

For more information on the cooking courses please visit www.craftguildofchefs.org

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Cookery Courses London News

BakingMad cookery course and cook books up for grabs

How are your baking skills? Could do with a top up? Have one of those bread-makers at home that you bought, used once, couldn’t be doing with the mess, thought about putting it on e-bay but seen there are a thousand other budding bread chefs like you beat you to it? Yeah, I? know where you’re coming from.

Well, here’s a chance to put all of that right. In conjunction with BBC Good Food, we have news about the chance for you to win a half-day cookery course learning how to turn dough into bread, not an hour and three quarters in the oven for it to turn out D’oh! Instead.

Not only is it an intense cookery class in everything to do with baking but the winner of the competition will be under the expert tutelage of Channel 4’s Eric Lanlard, he of BakingMad With Eric Lanlard fame.

Of the many cookery courses on offer in London, this one is perhaps one of the most renowned. Obviously, with eyes on customers giving it star ratings given the media spotlight surrounding his Cake Boy cookery school in Battersea, you are guaranteed to come away with the knowledge Eric imparts as you stroll through some of his favourite recipes and patisseries as well as the inherent experience of what it must feel like to bake on television. For what that’s worth.

As well as the half-day cookery course, the competition winner will take home the staple branded apron, everything that you have baked during the course of the cookery class and a handy BakingMad gift bag in which you can put the recipes you also win as part of the prize.

In order to celebrate the show’s return to the TV screens earlier this month, Eric’s giving away a prize a week. There is also a freebie to claim on his site plus the opportunity to win an Allison’s herb Garden and a separate competition to win one of five cook books he currently has on offer. The question for the cook book is simple enough: What is the name of Eric Lanlard’s Baking Mad With television show called? It’s all going on over there, I tell you.

You do need to sign up to access the competitions, but you will get plenty of recipes in your inbox and there are many on the site, ranging from Almond Cheesecake to Brioche made in a bread maker. For the intuitive, there are enough recipes on there to start a cookery class of your own, but I didn’t say that…

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News

New Survey Reveals That Diners Are Cutting Back

A new survey by food service consultancy firm Horizons which has revealed that British consumers are cutting back on the number of times that they eat out.

The survey reveals that the number of times that people eat out has fallen by 25 per cent in the last year. A year ago the average consumer was eating out around 1.4 times per week. This figure is now around once per week. The fall has coincided with a corresponding increase in the number of people attending cookery courses.

However despite the current economic climate 70 per cent of consumers said that they had dined out at least once in the last two weeks with almost 50 per cent doing so twice or more.

One third of the 1,400 people questioned thought that eating out was more convenient and a quarter claimed that they would prefer not to cook at home.

Of those that have eaten out recently almost 30 per cent said that they were being sociable, 23 per cent were celebrating a special occasion whilst 17 per cent claimed it represented better value.

A spokeswoman for Horizons explained that the results show that whilst consumers have reduced the number of times that they eat out, it continues to be a popular pastime due to sociability, value for money and convenience.

The survey also found that a third of consumers choose the venue based on habit whilst 22 per cent claimed that their choice was unplanned. Around 14 per cent chose the venue based on a recommendation with only 11 per cent being influenced by special offers or vouchers.

According to the survey the most popular place to eat out is pub restaurants with around 20 per cent of people questioned choosing to eat there. The next most popular choices were home delivery and takeaways with Chinese and Indian restaurants coming joint third.

The recent study also found that pubs were proving a popular choice for customers wishing to eat out.