Science in the kitchen is a recipe for success

The Co-operative Group’s North membership team recently took a leaf from Heston Blumenthal’s book to create some exciting Kitchen Chemistry. As well as providing sponsorship of £6,000, The...

Kitchen Chemistry, which took place during National Science and Engineering week, challenged aspiring chefs in schools across the North East to design a two-course meal that would demonstrate the use of science. The menu also had to include at least one Fairtrade ingredient.

The idea behind the competition, says Claire Willis, SLC’s Inspiring Science co-ordinator, was to bring together two disciplines which tend to be viewed separately and show children that scientific processes are an integral part of cooking.

“Too often science is thought of in the context of labs and it bears no relevance to our everyday lives. By encouraging children to use their scientific knowledge to create a recipe, we were asking them to use science in a very different way,” she said.

Co-operative and membership officer Gillian Cowell added: “Kitchen Chemistry also encouraged the children to think about the food they are eating and where it comes from. In the judging process they were asked to specifically explain the science behind their cooking and to define what Fairtrade products are.”

Pupils came up with an array of recipes but entries were whittled down to 11 teams of two from five schools in the North East, including Co-operative Group-sponsored St Benet Biscop High School. The finalists’ two-course menus ranged from pesto pepperonta and banana bread to chilli con carne and strawberry shortbread.

To give the budding chefs a helping hand, Dave Hall, one of the The Co-operative’s community chefs, visited each school where he mentored the pupils and helped them fine-tune their recipes before the grand cook off.

Dave said: “The mentoring process helped the pupils learn about various cooking methods and the scientific processes behind them and provided a great opportunity to really get them thinking about sustainable food, food ethics and Fairtrade.

“The teams showed tremendous enthusiasm during the whole project and worked hard together to master their menus for the final. It was a close call as they all demonstrated creativity and excellent presentation, produced good quality and tasty food, which included Fairtrade ingredients, and showed they understood the relationship between science and food technology.”

In the end, pupils Ryan Storey and Michael Stout, both 11, from South Tynedale Middle School in Haltwhistle proved they had the winning ingredients when they dazzled the judges with their dishes of stuffed chicken breast followed by jam and sponge custard.

St Benet Biscop High School pupils Charlotte Batista, 12, and Sophie Brown, 11, took second place with their menu of ham and pea risotto followed by lemon cheesecake, while a cheese, ham and sweetcorn omelette followed by fruit cobbler, gave Rachel Blackwell and Isabel Taylor, both 12, from Newcastle’s Sacred Heart High School the third prize.

The winning teams were presented with money for food technology equipment for their schools — £150 for first prize, £100 for second prize and £50 for third prize. The pupils received book tokens.

Gillian said: “Encouraging school children to be healthy is a major concern for The Co-operative and it was fantastic to see so many youngsters working together and getting excited about food and cooking. We were thrilled to support Kitchen Chemistry and hope to

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