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University Cookery Course Leads the Way in Student Kitchens

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University Cookery Course Leads the Way in Student Kitchens

University Cookery Course Leads the Way in Student Kitchens
March 26
07:20 2015

Catering teams have their part to play in education, according to Ian Macaulay, assistant director of catering at the University of Edinburgh, which recently established a cookery school for students in the capital…

According to a recent report by The University Caterers’ Organisation (TUCO), over 50 percent of today’s students cook a meal from scratch on most days, with a further third cooking once a week at least.

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The document, entitled the Student Eating and Drinking Habits report, was published in July last year, and also revealed the main reasons which prevent them from cooking from scratch:  Among them: almost 80% cited a lack of time; 25% claimed money was the main barrier; and one fifth said they did not have the knowledge or ability to cook a variety of meals.

Mr Macaulay is keen to tackle the latter head on, by providing students with access to cookery lessons from his team of university chefs.

Pollock Halls, the university’s catered halls of residence which accommodates around 1,900 students, underwent a £25,000 transformation of a former cafe into a fully equipped training kitchen.

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The facility, which can accommodate up to 12 students paying £10 to cover the cost of ingredients, is open to any University of Edinburgh student, and aims to build knowledge and develop repertoires.

‘We know that many students nowadays don’t have the skills they might have had a few years ago,’ he explains. ‘Because of this, I want the catering team here to become part of the educational process.’

Introduced at the start of the 2014/15 academic year, the sessions at the cookery school began last October and were immediately booked up.

Andy Benn, development chef for Bidvest 3663, led the initial classes: ‘The aim is to equip students with basic cookery skills so that they can confidently prepare a number of dishes,’ he says. ‘They are learning techniques as well as safety in the kitchen and food hygiene.’

Ability can be mixed, with some students coming to the classes with average or higher competency, and others having never cooked before:

‘They soon find it’s not difficult,’ continues Ian. ‘What’s interesting is the number of international students, particularly those from Asian countries, who enroll.’

According to Ian, there are four objectives to the cook school: To demonstrate that people can eat healthily on a budget; food hygiene; sustainability; and knife skills and safety.

And as in everday life, managing money is another important factor: ‘You might have a food cost of £5 and that will stretch to three portions,’ adds Andy. ‘Mince-based dishes tend to go further, and by learning how to make a bolognese the students can also make a chilli con carne or a cottage pie.’

As the first educational institution in the UK to achieve the Food for the Brain award, the University has also attained the Scottish Government’s healthyliving award across all its catering outlets, in addition to the Food for Life Bronze Catering Mark for its 12 sites across the city.

‘Twelve years ago I started a healthy food agenda at the university, Ian concludes. ‘Catered halls have a large percentage of parents who are paying for their child to stay there, and they expect their child to be fed nutritious meals.

‘The TUCO report has rubber-stamped what we’re trying to achieve, and the initiative is really growing arms and legs.

‘My hope for the future is that it will eventually become fully self-funded.’

 www.3663.co.uk

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