The Dales Specialist Primary School in Northumberland has opened a café and culinary classroom to help teach students about healthy eating and how to cook and look after themselves.
The school has 139 pupils aged four to 11 based at two sites in Northumberland – Blythdale in Blyth and Ashdale in Ashington. The new café and cooking classes have been introduced to make the curriculum as active and entertaining as possible.
Alongside learning cooking skills, the café serves up a host of practical life lessons for the children. The café, which runs alongside the school canteen, has tables which the children are taught to set with cloths and cutlery; in addition, the food is plated like it would be served in a restaurant, giving the children even more skills and insights into life as a chef.
To assist with the cooking classes, pupils have been getting a helping hand from Blyth-born Chef Richard (Richie) Moore. Richie, who is group development chef at North East-based The Inn Collection Group (ICG), has been helping the pupils prepare menus, cook a meal, and even serve the dishes to their fellow pupils and teachers in the dedicated kitchen and dining space.
During the classes, the pupils have made a range of dishes, including spaghetti Bolognese, chicken curry, pizzas and quiche, all while wearing aprons and chefs’ toques donated by The ICG.
“It is fantastic to have Richie on board,” Sally Collins, deputy headteacher, says. “He is passionate about helping the children, and it means they have the opportunity to see someone who isn’t a teacher, who has a real life job, and who cares enough about them to want to be involved and to pass on his skills.
“[The lessons are] teaching the children about maths, English, reading, cooking, healthy eating and teamwork,” continues Sally. “They have to design and write the menus and budget for each meal, which is where the English, reading and maths comes in, cook as a team, and serve. Sitting down together to eat reinforces good manners, the social side of mealtimes and the need to share as they see things being passed around.”
“The children love it,” Sally adds. “The food they are producing is excellent. My office is nearby, and I can safely say the mouth-watering smells wafting out of the kitchen are every bit as appetising as the food.”
This isn’t the first time that Richie has worked with the school. When he was head chef at The ICG’s The Commissioners Quay Inn in Blyth, he invited the students into his kitchen to experience what life is like working in the hospitality industry.
“They are a really great bunch of children who are eager to learn about where their food comes from, enjoy trying new ingredients, getting stuck in, and making and eating their own meals,” Richie says. “Learning to cook is an essential life skill – whatever your age, background or mental and physical needs. This is about helping them appreciate and understand the qualities of good food and the importance of a balanced diet, whilst showing them that cooking is fun and sociable.
“There is a real buzz about the place, and I have been very impressed by the students’ commitment, standard of cooking and professionalism,” Richie adds. “Some could even be the young chefs of the future.”
The children are equally enthusiastic and the feedback from them has been encouraging, with pupils, such as 10-year-old Connor, saying that the design of the café is amazing.
“Cooking is really fun,” adds 10-year-old Leighton. “I like it that the school has a café where I can sit with my friends. I like going in there and cooking.”
“It is nice doing cooking, and I can try new things,” 11-year-old classmate Scarlett says.
“I like cooking my own meals in the café,” adds nine-year-old Lennox. “It gives me more choices of what to eat.”