The Guardian reports that The Great British Bake Off judge Prue Leith has joined leading restaurateurs Thomasina Miers and Yotam Ottolenghi to help launch a charity that hopes to recruit top chefs to work in school kitchens.
The aim is not just to improve the quality of food – which remains patchy despite chef Jamie Oliver’s best efforts – but to teach pupils some fast-disappearing cookery skills to help protect their future health. One in five children leaves primary school obese, with those in deprived areas three times as likely to be obese than their wealthier peers.
The new charity, Chefs in Schools, hopes to recruit 100 professional restaurant-trained chefs for 100 state schools over the next five years. Leading restaurants such as Dishoom, Wahaca, Murano, the River Cafe and Moro will support the chefs’ retraining.
One of the founders is Nicole Pisani, who quit her job as a top chef at Ottolenghi’s acclaimed Nopi restaurant in Soho, central London, in 2014 to become a school cook at Gayhurst primary school in Hackney, east London. Now she wants other chefs to follow her lead.
“The world we live in today is so obsessed with food,” said Pisani. “We have access to any kind of food we wish during any season and Instagram every meal, but in schools what we serve and teach our children does not mirror that. This is why I felt compelled to create a change.”
Leith, a former chair of the School Food Trust and patron of the charity, said: “Chefs in Schools is a great and badly needed initiative. We all know that getting children to eat well is vital for their health and happiness and chefs can help inspire schools to get food right and children to eat it.”
Louise Nichols, the executive headteacher of the Leap Federation of schools that includes Gayhurst, said: “At Gayhurst, we have managed to cut the cost of school meals from £1.20 to just 80p per child, while improving the quality and nutritional value of every meal.”
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