An invitation to cook up something special

Morpeth Rotary President Laurie Walker, speaker Sara Jensen-Boon and George Brown who won the two raffle prizes
Morpeth Rotary President Laurie Walker, speaker Sara Jensen-Boon and George Brown who won the two raffle prizes

MORPETH Rotary Club members were invited by Sara Jensen-Boon to train as cooks at a new facility in Alnwick.

The training kitchen was opened at The Alnwick Garden in late July by the Prince of Wales. It is called Jamie’s Ministry of Food and is located just to the right of the shop at the entrance. Project Manager Sara has experience both of the catering industry and education. She was appointed in May with the task of having the training kitchen built and taking on staff, who are chef Adam and nutritionist Maureen.

The kitchen was installed in six weeks, even though none of the equipment can be permanently attached to the floor or wooden walls. Part of the mission is to promote cooking from scratch with basic ingredients in a move to get people back into the kitchen and away from the convenience option.

They plan to offer a huge variety of cooking courses for a range of groups including children, older people, those with mental health problems or a physical disability and students. They will use freshly picked ingredients from the Garden and encourage a healthy lifestyle.

The initiative ties in with a Garden project to set up a kitchen garden. All of the main ingredients have to be local. The meat used must have the ‘higher welfare’ tag, and so is more expensive. The chickens and eggs have to be free range. Most vegetables are from the ‘roots and shoots’ garden at Alnwick. The gardeners have a plant list of vegetables and herbs that are needed.

The project works with Northumberland food producers to plan food use. The training kitchen is available to community groups seven days a week — courses can take place during daytime, at weekends or in the evening.

On the day of the talk, there was a course for nine 16-to-19-year-olds from Barndale School to cook and eat their lunch. The day before, there was a course for dementia sufferers and their carers. The patients did the cooking and the carers had a break.

Courses can be basic skills for beginners or for people who have not cooked for a while. There is a ‘budding chef’ programme for up to 65 children aged from five upwards.

Some public courses are offered at full cost. There is an eight to 10 week cooking course of two hours a week for £80 to £100. All recipes are Jamie Oliver’s and all are checked for nutritional value.

All ingredients and recipes are provided. There is a Lunch Club for 15 people each week with five cooking each time on a rota basis.

There was some initial funding from a legacy stream, but the manager has to make the venture sustainable for the future.

The project is part of the Jamie Oliver Foundation that started schemes like this five years ago. There are now six across the country, with two in London and three in Yorkshire.