Good food at St Mary’s, Haddenham

CELEBRITY chef Raymond Blanc gave a passionate speech on the importance of good food to gathered headteachers at a food conference at St Mary’s School, Haddenham.

Raymond Blanc delivers an impassioned speech. Photo by Sophie Song Gilbert.

Raymond Blanc delivers an impassioned speech. Photo by Sophie Song Gilbert.

The Frenchman famous for his nearby restaurant, Le Manoir, at Great Milton, talked of how he learnt about food from his mother who had five children to feed, and early in life got into gardening. He explained how growing varieties of mushrooms had made him rich before expressing his disappointment at the levels of obesity and related diseases in the UK.

“We have separated food from everything when really food is connected with everything,” Raymond said, explaining how he first took on the garden at Le Manoir in 1983, when he said it was a scary mess full of dead plants and overrun by rabbits.

Returning to the subject of food, he talked of the importance of seasonality. “The consequences are enourmous. If you buy seasonally you help your farmer to keep his business fresh.”

He said: “I feel not anger but disappointment about the choices we make and the consequences of those choices.”

Raymond was speaking at a day-long conference organised by Karen Collett, headteacher at St Mary’s Haddenham. He was followed by Myles Bremner, national-co-ordinator of the Schools Food Plan a plan that has the backing of the Secretary of State that aims to  help headteachers improve food in schools.

Up next was Amanda Ursell, a food writer who spoke about nutrition and the importance and health benefits of eating three balanced meals a day. She echoed Raymond’s disappointments with the obesity situation, stating that almost 10 per cent of reception age children are obese, with that figure rising to 18 per cent by the time they reach year six. “That rise has happened in the last 10 years,” Amanda said.

A marquee in the school garden was put up for lunch and conference participants got the chance to sample the wares of local farmers and other food producers. Oli Blanc and Charlotte Salt spoke about Henri Le Worm – an app that teaches children about food in a fun way.

The conference was arranged as Karen bids for funding to improve her school kitchen. Raymond had already been to St Mary’s in January, when he helped children to learn to cook using healthy ingredients. He took pupils into the school’s Eco Lodge, where they got ot create a Mice in Mayonnaise dish.

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