Restaurant chefs are reinventing school dinners in the UK

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Food can either be medicine or it can be poison,” says Nicole Pisani, co-founder of Chefs in Schools, a charity that aims to improve school dinners, while also teaching children to cook. “It’s our choice.”

Eight years ago, Pisani quit her job as head chef at one of London’s chicest restaurants – Soho’s Nopi, which was set up by Yotam Ottolenghi – and made the unusual move to become a school chef at Gayhurst community school in Hackney.

The somewhat surprising move has paid off: three years ago, Pisani and Naomi Duncan launched Chefs in Schools. The project now has passionate, trained chefs in 44 schools across the UK, most of them in socially deprived areas, who feed around 16,000 children a day, as well as teach them to cook.

“Cooking with children is what I love most,” Pisani declares. “You turn into a five-year-old yourself. It’s hard not to be happy.” When she first started teaching children – using recipes such as beetroot brownies and banana splits – Pisani was blown away by how enthusiastic they were.

Chefs in Schools, in partnership with the Leap Federation, also set up the Hackney School of Food last March, a school specifically designed to teach classes of schoolchildren, as well as adults, how to cook delicious, healthy meals.



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