Feature article: Get cooking!

Jane Zanzottera writes about a new social enterprise that is trying to get people to use their kitchens.

get cooking

Eat to Live or Live to Eat, whatever your particular mantra is, there is no argument that food is pretty essential, one way or another, to our survival.

Despite this, it’s amazing how people, from all walks of life, lack basic food knowledge and cooking skills.  The monopoly of supermarkets, urban living and ready meals means that for a lot of us we are removed from where our food comes from and what to do with it when we actually get it. Ironically, the viewing figures for TV programmes about cooking and sales of the recipe books which accompany the series 100, continue to be high.  This has a greater irony when recent articles focusing on Breadline Britain have identified that for many families, ready meals are the most financially economical option despite the fact that they are so nutritionally poor .

Get Cooking! is a Leeds based social enterprise which is trying  to realign some of this imbalance.  The Director, Emily Carey, is passionate about food and the fact that good cooking can also be simple and accessible.  Successful start-up funding from UNltd, Leeds City Council Keeping House and the Big Lotteray, Awards for All enabled Emily to get started.  This financial support, combined with business advice from the Social Business Brokers  has meant that she has been able to trial lessons and kitchens across Leeds.

A typical lesson has 8 participants, all of whom make the meal in the lesson, which they then get to take home to eat.   Each course has 10 lessons in total and follows a structure, so that over the course of the lessons, a range of skills have been taught and practised.  Currently, the courses taking place follow a tomato sauce theme, so meals made include: angry chilli sauce with penne, spaghetti bolognaise, meatballs, parmigiana, risotto and goulash.

The kitchens used by Get Cooking! are usually in a school or academy building.  This means that there is enough space for everyone to have a cooker and/or hob and they are accessible for people with different needs eg wheelchair access.   From April 2013, Get Cooking! will be using the kitchen at the new building for Leeds East Academy.  This kitchen has been designed to specific Get Cooking! requirements, including work surfaces that can be raised/lowered; adequate space for wheelchairs and enough cookers for everyone to cook comfortably.

Get Cooking! is for anyone who wants to learn to cook. The ethos is about  embracing food and cooking and thoroughly enjoying the process.  The lessons are completely hands on and are a great opportunity to meet people as well as learn new skills for life.  For further information check out the website www.get-cooking.org.uk , follow us on Twitter @GCooking or like our Facebook page.

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