The Table Talk Foundation, a charity which aims to improve food education in schools is inspiring the next generation of chefs to support the hospitality industry. Since its formation in 2021, the Sussex-based charity has worked in partnership with Adopt A School Trust, the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts’ charity arm, which brings chefs into schools to help children develop healthy eating habits.

Dan Wade, co-founder of Table Talk Foundation, a former chef, says, “According to research, many children don’t know that milk comes from a cow! I was horrified by this. There’s such a big disconnect between where food comes from and what goes into our mouths.”

Chefs from Table Talk Foundation provide four different sessions for schoolchildren aged 9 to 11 in Years 5 and 6, starting with a ‘taste sensory session’ teaching kids about different flavours. In the bread-making session, children take home the dough to prove at home and cook. The knife skills session shows children how to use plastic knives safely, and in the “front of house” session, the assembly hall is marked up as a restaurant with half the class as customers and half as waiters. “We teach them how to serve people and basics such as using cutlery,” says Dan. “The sessions feed into Key Stage 2 – for example in bread-making we talk about maths and science – dividing 500g of flour by two and about how yeast works and different types of bread.”

In addition, schoolchildren spend a day at the charity’s training kitchen at Plumpton College, Sussex. Children can explore the farm and dairy and see where their food comes from. “It’s a farm to fork experience,” says Dan. “We show them a dairy, fetch some milk and use it to make butter which is put on the bread we made this morning.”

At present, the charity works with 40 primary schools and holiday clubs in Sussex. High profile chef James Golding, who joined from The Pig Group, is head of food education and oversees the education programme. Currently, there is one full time chef and four part-time chefs who carry out the school teaching sessions.

James says, “I’ve seen a decline in young people coming into the industry. I believe education is the only way to inspire and create passion. As a father of three children, I’ve realised the lack of food education within schools and have decided that this needs to be changed so kids make better food choices and understand the amazing careers available in the hospitality industry.”

Dan says, “Everything I learnt in hospitality has helped me to be successful. I also run the Table Talk Business Club, a not-for-profit organisation, which underpins the charity. Members sponsor the school sessions and raise funds. I don’t want money to be a barrier to education. Businesses can sponsor a school near their office where their kids go to school and in return, we invite them to watch the sessions.”

Dan and James are devising a programme for secondary schools, working with colleges to train a younger generation of chefs using a more modern approach. “We want to build a ‘pathway’ – working in primary and secondary schools and colleges and then help students forge careers in hospitality. We can help create the superstar chefs of tomorrow,” says Dan. “I want to establish the concept in Sussex first and then it could be replicated in other counties.”

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