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Cookery schools can help the UK fight food poverty

Where has this week gone, already? So here we are with our final instalment and summary, considering how cookery courses could get actively involved in the fight against food waste and food poverty in the UK and actively contribute towards food recycling.

So, here are the facts that have led me to my conclusion for the three posts so far this week.

• Looking to Cook is hosting an annual cookery school competition to find the best courses & school across the UK and Eire.
• Cookery schools would have a lot more students if the price was a little more affordable, the cost of the food itself being a major contributory factor.
• Around 4,000,000 people are living in food poverty in the UK
• 6,000,000 tons of edible food is discarded at supply/retail outlets
• There are a million young people aged 16-25 out of work
• Thousands of young people leave home not knowing how to cook
Locanda Locatelli has already paved the way, showing that there is no stigma attached to renowned, Michelin-rated even, cookery schools reaching out to further the FoodCycle cause
• Other organisations, like FoodAware, are already making in-roads with suppliers and rousing their own volunteer network across the UK and Ireland

So, come on cookery awards – let’s see a category for ‘best use of waste food’ added to next year’s event.

Ideally, the way forward would be to create a menu, even a set syllabus, utilising the basic food stuffs that get thrown away on a daily basis. Now, we appreciate that you cannot make demands on what supermarkets discard – if they knew what was going to be surplus in advance, they wouldn’t order that volume in the first place, would they? Unless, of course, there were price-breaks involved based on volume, whereby ordering x amount entitled you to price a, but ordering y amount entitled them to a cheaper price b. But even then, the likelihood is they would order what their forecast tells them they ought.

With FoodCycle, every group has a designated manager to oversee operations; to format any type of menu, it is critical that those managers keep a log of the type of food stuffs that go into their menus, where it comes from and what recipes it is used in once it arrives at the community centres.

With the existing links that Food Aware has, they may even already have access to this information; more about that organisation, tomorrow.

Once that has been collated, cookery courses could offer their services, whether it be a selection of chefs or kitchen space once a week to further their cause, even adding their own ‘brand’ into the recipes. What an opportunity for free advertising!

Imagine, for instance, FoodCycle groups expanding their network to Scotland’s second city, where food poverty and associated disease is rife amongst the poorer communities in Glasgow’s suburbs. Then Nick Nairn Cook School (details on our cookerycourses.co.uk home page), which has premises in both Port of Menteith between Glasgow and Edinburgh and further north in the harder to reach communities in Aberdeen reaching out, offering their services:

FoodCycle Glasgow, supported by Nick Nairn Cook School

How cool would that be? Okay, that is perhaps the idealistic and simplistic view and it would take a lot of co-operation to make this Utopia a reality. But if just one cookery school accepts the gauntlet, similar to how Locanda Locatelli has already shown us the way, that would be a huge step in the right direction.
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Cookery School News

Michelin-rated Cookery School joins FoodCycle cause

Welcome back to the third and penultimate part of our little run on FoodCycle and how, I believe, by cookery courses taking the initiative, the good work performed by volunteers around the country turning waste food into nutritious meals could be a win-win-win situation.

What do FoodCycle and cookery schools have in common?

Ok, the obvious answer is cooking food. But the secondary answer I’m looking for is: students!

Many of the 16-25 year old volunteers who help bring the discarded food from retail outlets to the tables of those suffering from food poverty in the community are students, not necessarily from the region they’re helping to bring suchre to.

We have written many an article on cookerycourses.co.uk about how youngsters leave home without even the most basic knowledge of cooking from fresh ingredients. Whilst cookery classes may be beyond the reach of a young family’s budget, getting involved in a project like FoodCycle will not only help that old dinosaur culinary ignoramus further down the road to extinction, but will also benefit a local community near you.

The cooking revolution has already started (and I was totally unaware of this before starting this serious – oops, sack the researcher!), but one London cookery school has already begun to tap into the talent flocking to FoodCycle from the universities and suburbs.

Only last week, Giorgio Locatelli and the guys at the La Cucina Caldesi in London W1 were offering 10 budding chefs the opportunity to take part in a cookery masterclass with the Michelin-star chef himself, before joining the main man to eat the three-course meal and soak up the atmosphere and a little of Giorgio’s fine dining philosophy. Cooking and philosophy from an Sicilian master – does it get any better than that?  Well actually, yes it does.  During the meal, owner of Enoteca Turi, Guiseppe Turi, was scheduled to guide the lucky students through a history of fine Italian wine, including what they were partaking in at the table.  Doubley Bubbly!

At £500 a head, it does, however, underline how far out of reach fine dining cookery classes are for the average family, but on this occasion, every penny went to the the FoodCycle cause. Now if my maths are anything like my writing…

…Kelvin needed £5,000 from this year’s fund raiser before he’d consider having the dragon tattoo on his back…10 guests were invited to Giorgio’s masterclass on the 19th June in London…at £500 a pop – hey, Kelvin – there’s your five G’s, big man…let us know when the ink’s dry and the scabs have healed!

Right, so that sums up my arguments. Join us for the fourth and final part of this mini series tomorrow, before we take a peep into another program in this growing niche already infiltrating UK retail outlets and raising a volunteer network across the nation, Food Aware CIC, to conclude our week on food recycling and food poverty.

This has been a real eye-opening ride, so far; I just hope more cookery schools, including the 2012 awards, take the Locanda Locatelli attitude towards the cause, taking in the bigger picture rather than the short-sighted view of remaining somewhat exclusive.

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UK and Ireland cookery school 2012 competition launched

Heads up all of you purveyors of cookery courses – the 2012 Looking To Cook competition has been launched to find la crème de la crème of UK and Irish cookery schools and there is a whole host of categories into which you can enter your school/company, in whole or in categories in which you know you excel.

It has to be said, you can’t look into this niche without seeing a new cookery school open its doors every week. From independents to giants in the hospitality trade, from a group of select chefs to manufacturers of food and drink products, all are seen as ways of bringing either expertise or a particular product into the every day lives of budding chefs who genuinely want to enhance their skills and learn to cook meals other than traditionally accepted fare.

Whilst cookery schools themselves bestow awards upon its pupils and suppliers and manufacturers/brands celebrate their own chefs of the year regularly, Looking to Cook has decided it’s about to honour those cookery schools that are all-important in the learning curve that sees aspiring chefs go from newbie to nouvelle and from mediocre to Michelin.

Does your cookery school go above and beyond the the call of duty?

So, if your cookery school offers that little bit extra, takes the average chef out of their comfort zone to try the amazing instead of the amateur menu, the Looking to Cook awards want to know about it. And what’s best about this competition is that it not only has an extremely simplified process to enter, it is also free*.

The process is simple enough. There are detailed category listings on the Looking to Cook site, as well as further in depth info about the cookery school competition itself. Simply send an e-mail detailing which of the categories you’d like your school/company name entered into and a quick résumé indicating on what basis you believe your cookery courses qualify for that category.

There is a limit on the number of categories any one cookery school can enter of three. You can enter up to two of the categories for free; *if you opt for a third, it does attract a fee of £29. The prestigious award for overall best cookery school will be determined from a shortlist based on the winners of each regional best school. There’s also a bonus award of best website, which is not a category you can enter into per se, but of all those who enter the competition, Looking to Cook will cast the vote to the public to see which they think offers the best overall digital cookery school experience.

Full competition details are available on their website.

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From plantation to plate up – something’s missing

Continuing with our food and farming theme – we’ve got a cracking post about world food wastage coming up tomorrow; it will open your eyes, for sure – but today we look at how much knowledge is coming off the farmyard and finding its way into our offspring’s minds. Judging from a recent survey conducted by Linking Environment And Farming, not a fat lot.

We’ve written many articles on cookerycourses.co.uk about the importance of learning young people to cook. Many leave school with only the knowledge of how to cook ready- or microwave meals, often not even how to be even that resourceful. But this recent survey by LEAF, the food certification body, shows that we perhaps need to start a little further back in the chain if we are really going to bring cookery as a practical skill to our children.

And we’re not talking infants, juniors or senior school aged children, here; we’re talking those in further education and beyond, between the ages of sixteen and twenty-three. Astonishingly, 3% of those surveyed believed that bacon came off of cows, whilst a third answered something else other than pigs.

Furthermore, the LEAF study of the 2,000 young adults found that less than a half of those questioned knew where butter came from. The picture question showed three pictures: a dairy cow, beef cattle and wheat. Whilst less than fifty percent opted for the dairy cow (25% not even hazarding a guess at all), 8% opted for the beef cattle and 7% – that’s 140 young adults out of 2,000 – believed that butter was obtained from wheat. Incredible. Everyone knows it comes from buttercups!

Wheat is – allegedly – the provider of butter, eggs and steak

Wheat seemed a popular answer, with 10% guessing that eggs came from either it or maize and 12% – that’s nearly one in eight – answered that steak – STEAK for goodness sake – came from wheat, also.

And as for guessing how long crops took to be ready for harvest from plantation, ten percent of the young adults thought that wheat, oats and potatoes would be ready in less than a month. Some fertilizer, that!

In order to address the concern over the survey’s findings, CEO of LEAF, Caroline Drummond, wants to tackle another aspect thrown up by the survey, which is that thirty percent of kids born in the nineties haven’t been to a farm in a decade or more. Yesterday, LEAF held Open Farm Sunday in an attempt to bring the public closer to the food they eat at its root source.  Hundreds of farms across the UK took part in the event and we await figures to see how well received the day was.

If this is the state of farming and food education, perhaps our cookery schools are missing a trick, here? As well as teaching young adults to cook, they could incorporate basic food knowledge, too. With so many cookery classes taking place in farmhouse kitchens, what a wonderful opportunity to educate our children: “from plantation to plate-up“. Bagsy copyright on the name, if anyone takes it up!

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Edinburgh’s hidden cookery school gem

There must be something in the air in Edinburgh as its two most prolific football teams took to Hampden Park at the weekend to do battle for the Scottish F.A. Cup. Following the Jambo’s victory parade in the sun yesterday afternoon on the open-top bus, the rest of Scotland’s capital gets back to work, today, with thingstodoinedinburghtoday.com offering a cracking cookery course deal through Groupon for the Coulston Cookery School.

The bigger the deal you take out, quite simply, the more you save from their set price list of fine dining cookery classes. A single place entitles you to a 58% discount, two people will benefit from 60% off and, if you book a private session for up to ten people, the group will save almost two thirds, snapping up a whopping 63%, the prices coming in at £50, £95 and £450 respectively.

But there is more to the cookery school than just learning how to cook haute cuisine.

The Haddington rural estate in which the cookery school is set not only provides a venue for the private functions it hosts and idyllic atmosphere for cookery lessons, but its vast land beside the retreat has plenty of room to grow the vegetables used in the cookery classes. These sit well beside the other locally-sourced ingredients that all go in to making this a real adventure into the world of fine dining.

And for the savings, you won’t simply be thrust in at the deep end or wondering whether you’ve managed to achieve the high expectations set by one of Edinburgh’s most sought after cookery courses.

Prior to you getting your hands dirty (not literally, obviously), there is a meet and greet session over tea where you get to know the other students taking the class with you and an informal drop in by one of the chefs.

You then move ion to the kitchens themselves, where an initial demonstration will prime you in order that you can take on the three course meal challenge that the teachers, all master chefs themselves, will set you. Once you’re done and your creations are taken through to the dining room other master chefs and chefs of the future will sample your delights, appraising your efforts with critical eyes, nose and taste buds.

So if you fancy learning to cook in an estate that boasts 700 years of fine dining history or are simply heading off to Edinburgh and are looking for something to do other than the usual tourist ventures associated with Scotland’s capital city, the Coulston Cookery School seems to have it all wrapped up.

If Scotland’s a jaunt too far, don’t forget we have our own choice of classes on cookerycourses.co.uk.

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Yorkshire cookery school wins tourism award

A Yorkshire farm that opened a new cookery school just 12 months ago has been awarded the Most Remarkable Newcomer at the East Yorkshire Tourism Awards.

The Yorkshire Wolds Cookery School in Southburn focuses on local produce and was established as part of farming diversification scheme.

The principal tutor at the cookery school, Ali Bilton, initially thought of establishing a school in York. However, this plan was changed following a series of conversations with JSR Farms; the country’s largest family owned farming business.

“JSR mentioned that they had premises that they thought would be a perfect site for a cookery school,” explained Ali.

“It means that there is a constant supply of quality local food for us to use in the kitchen.

“A recent course, Yorkshire Born & Bred, focused on demonstrating to students how you are able to make meals entirely with produce from the county. It proved so effective that we are planning to continue to run it again.”

Ali feels that the trend for television cookery shows has been motivating more and more people to cook, but that sometimes they give the appearance that cooking is much more difficult than it needs to be.

“I think that sometimes people are put off because they believe that almost everything has to be cooked to a michelin-star standard.

“Our focus is geared much more towards creating quick and easy meals, particularly for students.

The manager of the cookery school, Alison Johnson has worked with several farming businesses all over the county. She feels that the  accolade will provide the encouragement that will help the school move forward.

The school has installed brand new kitchen equipment and can accommodate ten cookery students at any one time.

All who attend a cookery course at Yorkshire Wolds are welcome to take home the food that they have cooked.

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Cookery School News

Cookery school lifts the lid on the restaurant trade

Many people dream of running their own restaurant, but with almost 70% of such businesses failing within the first 3 years, the reality can be somewhat different.

In an effort to ensure that would-be restaurateurs have the full facts before taking the plunge, The Richard Hughes Cookery School has launched a course aimed at those planning to open their own restaurant.

The course, which began last in June, includes subjects such as marketing, menu planning, service, sourcing suppliers and staffing. There is also be the opportunity to meet with other successful business people. The cookery course should appeal to those that are thinking about a change of career as well as those who think that their current business could be improved.

With over 30 years of experience Richard Hughes, is well placed to help others make to a success of their venture. However he is keen to ensure that would-be restaurateurs understand that running restaurant has got very little to do with cookery – the time spent in the kitchen can be a low as 10%. The course focuses on the fundamentals of how to run a restaurant and the impact of that this has on the lifestyles of those that run them.

The course also looks to build confidence but it should be recognised that there is no magic formula. Many people are attracted to the industry each year but many are unsuccessful because they fail to grasp the concept of turning food into profit. The market is tough with a wide range of competition.

The course lasts three days and will cost prospective students £550 per person.

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Cookery School News

French cookery school explores Scotland

Continental diners may soon be enjoying the taste of Scotland after the French cookery school, Lycée Hôtelier in Dinard, sent nine cookery students to explore the country and learn more about its chefs, products and producers.

The joint project was developed in association with Frédéric Berkmiller and his two Edinburgh based restaurants, L’Escargot Bleu and L’Escargot Blanc.

During their stay, the students travelled the breadth of Scotland meeting wholesale fishmongers, vegetable producers and cattle farmers, and visiting their premises.

They also had the chance to learn about the rich variety of Scottish produce, from fish and meat to dairy and vegetables.

The students also visited the kitchens of L’Escargot Blanc and L’Escargot. There was also the opportunity to visit Michelin-Star chef Tom Kitchin and discuss his passion for fresh produce and his saying: “From nature to plate”.

Mr Berkmiller believes that both Scotland and France have rich larders that are very similar and as a result it is the duty of chefs and restaurant to share knowledge and experience with youngsters wherever they may come from.

During their visit some of the trainee chefs were left in charge of the kitchens at L’Escargot Blanc and L’Escargot Bleu. The remaining members of the French team visited the Institut Français d’Ecosse in Edinburgh, to participate in a special Tastes of Brittany and Meet the Chefs afternoon of sweet and savoury crepes tasting.

The exchange project was arranged as part of a year of cultural exchange between Scotland and Brittany that was conceived by the Institut Francais d’Ecosse.

The project is built on partnership with cultural organisations in both countries and aims to strengthen the existing links to support and develop artistic creation in addition to promoting it at an international and national level.

The Lycée Hotelier cookery school will be hosting the return leg in October. This will be an opportunity for a number of Scottish cookery students to explore the gastronomic joys of Brittany.

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Cookery School News

Cookery school CEO earns national recognition

The CEO and founder of Ashburton Cooking School, has been identified among the United Kingdom’s 100 most influential females in the tourism, travel, leisure and hospitality industries.

Stella West-Harling, a leading member of the organic produce movement in the South West, has been included in the Top 100 list that was revealed at a exclusive event in London.

The list also includes prominent women such as Nigella Lawson, Prue Leith, Delia Smith, Jill Stein and Ruth Rogers.

Ms West-Harling was chosen in recognition of the huge work she has done to galvanise the various parts of the food and drink sector across Dartmoor by endorsing excellent quality, locally sourced produce and the importance of a healthy approach to life. She also received praise for her involvement in developing imaginative cookery courses at the award winning Ashburton Cookery School that she set up in 1992.

Since 2008, the Cookery School has been delivering cooking courses to many of the school cooks from across Cornwall and Devon on behalf of the School Food Trust. The Cookery School has also developed strong links with the Princes’ Trust where it seeks to encourage disadvantaged youngsters to consider develop a catering career.

Stella believes that her nomination acknowledges the relevance of this type of work with youngsters. She also feels it is essential that tomorrow’s consumers appreciate the importance of local and good healthy food: “When I was first started out, the organic food market was considered as slightly alternative; however it is now highly regarded.

Our cookery school is always keen to promote the attitudes of high quality and sustainable, locally sourced produce along with raising the standard of training quality for the next generation in the food industry of tomorrow.”

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Sustainable fish competition launched by renowned chef

Top restaurateur, cookery school proprieter and world renowned chef, Raymond Blanc has launched a new contest to identify the most innovative and forward-thinking user of sustainable fish.

The competition is aimed at restaurants or caterers and is the result of a partnership between Raymond, the City of London Corporation, the Sustainable Fish City project, Sea Web Seafood Choices and the Fishmongers Company.

Raymond is the owner and chef at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons restaurant in Oxfordshire. He was born in France and like many of his compatriots he is a huge fan of seafood and fish. As a result, they feature in many of his dishes and he is a keen supporter of the recent sustainability campaign.

During the launch of the competition Raymond expressed his belief that good ethics ought to be fundamental to all businesses. He believes that the competition will give caterers and restaurateurs the chance to demonstrate what they are doing to help protect the nation’s marine resources.

Entrants will be expected to demonstrate a real passion for sustainable fish and have clear rules about what they will serve. It is hoped that as well as receiving their rightful recognition the successful entrants will also help to inspire others.

London based Indian restaurant Cafe Spice Namaste won the award last year. Head chef and owner Cyrus Todiwala also won the award for Leadership in Sustainability. Cyrus explained that he was delighted to win last year not least because the awards helped to highlight the beliefs which underpin his business.

Cyrus is pleased that the focus this year will be on fish. He believes that by using sustainable seafood, restaurants will be doing their bit in helping to prevent over fishing in our seas.

The campaign for sustainable fish won a notable victory recently, to read more please click here.