Celebrity chef teaches Richmond children tricks of the cooking trade


Fifteen pupils from Sheen Mount Primary School, Richmond, were treated to a cooking session with Paul Merrett as part of a ‘Cooking Ideas’ scheme.


By Sara Hailan

Celebrity TV chef Paul Merrett stepped into the classroom to teach children his tricks of the trade, last week.

Fifteen pupils from Sheen Mount Primary School, Richmond, were treated to a cooking session as part of a ‘Cooking Ideas’ scheme.

Paul, who frequently appears on BBC’s Saturday Kitchen and was a resident chef on ITV’s Sunday Feast, is currently targeting schools in the Richmond area.

The scheme, which was launched by charity School Food Matters, sees leading London chefs visit schools across London to educate children on healthy eating.

Paul said: “Teaching the children how to cook simple dishes meant I had more time to talk to them about ethical purchasing and a healthy lifestyle.

“A nutritional understanding is vital and hopefully these basic skills will last them a lifetime.”

Stephanie Wood, who founded School Food Matters in 2007, stressed that the educational aspect to the sessions are just as important as the practical side.

She said: “Our mission is to ensure that every child enjoys fresh sustainable food at school and understands where their food comes from.”

To highlight this, Paul performed visual demonstrations by cracking eggs to show the difference between battery farmed and organic eggs.

He said: “Just from a moral standpoint, children need to know from a young age how important organic farming is.

“We should not be treating animals in such horrible ways.”

The campaign is urging local authorities to improve school meals and to support food education through cooking, growing and links with local farms.  

Ms Wood added: “When I heard the head teacher at my children’s school announce that the pupils couldn’t identify an onion it was a clear that there was a job to be done!”

After the sessions, a recipe sheet is available from the School Food Matters website for children to practise their cooking skills at home.

Ms Wood spoke of the successes the campaign had experienced.

She said: “The schools loved it from the second we launched the first session back in 2009. The offer was snapped up in a record three minutes!”

Paul, who has been awarded two Michelin stars in the past, also described the visit as a nice change from the pressures of a stressful kitchen.

“It’s really great working with kids, I love it! Each school is different and it’s so rewarding,” he said.

“I have a responsibility as a chef. There are so many aspects to culinary education and we’re all just trying to touch base on all of them.”

One secondary and one primary school from each London borough will be visited by the team.

Schools can be selected if they are members of School Food Matters, making them first in line to host a session at their school.

See the School Food Matters website at for more information.

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