Blog: They’re the Chef – how we’re teaching students about British food.
They’re the chef – how we’re teaching students about British food
We’ve been delighted to continue our involvement with British Food Fortnight this year. Our association with this major national food event has been beneficial to us in so many ways. One of the more striking benefits is the way in which it has encouraged us to focus on some key questions, like ‘what is special or different about British food?’ and ‘what can we teach young people about the food of these islands?’
Last year we had the pleasure of working with London’s two Michelin Star chef Phil Howard of The Square restaurant. Our brief to him was to create ten ‘British Classics’ which we could roll out over British Food Fortnight. We gave him free rein to express his culinary genius, but there was, of course, one important difference – his customers were school students with just two pounds forty to spend. It is testament to his brilliance that he created ten fabulous dishes within those seemingly impossible constraints, taking some recognisable classics and sending them in a new direction. This is one thing the experience underlined for me – that the concept of ‘food traditions’ is not something fixed and unchanging. It is, in fact, in a constant state of growth and development.
The other important aspect of last year’s project was in learning and teaching about the wonderful local produce that is around us – something it is so easy to forget when we see so many ingredients coming to us from around the world. Chefs in two of our restaurants last year worked with their students to produce some impressive boxes full of the produce of their areas – one in Kent and one in Northamptonshire – which they then presented to HRH The Duchess of Cornwall at the Harvest Service in Birmingham Cathedral. Projects like this make you realise the bounty that is all around you – something it is so easy to be unaware of. And this led us on quite naturally to this year’s ‘You’re The Chef’ project.
When we sat down to plan this year’s British Food Fortnight project, we wanted to come up with something that had the potential to involve all 60,000 of our restaurant customers around the country in a British food activity. We invited all of them to take part in a competition to use British ingredients – preferably from their own part of Britain – to create a new dish of their own, with the winning dish to be announced and cooked for the whole school, and the winner to eat free for a fortnight. And now we’re at the business end of the competition and I can tell you that we have had some amazing entries so far - I look forward to telling you more about these very soon.