Children should be taught six staple dishes at school to prepare them for student life and help tackle the obesity crisis, according to celebrity chef Paul Rankin.

The Saturday Kitchen regular, who toured the food outlets at Birmingham City University as part of a healthy eating drive, said: “Most kids don’t know how to cook anything. In my opinion the medical community is not doing enough about the obesity issue and it appears to be getting worse and worse.

“We need to get over the fact that being reckless with your diet during your short time at university is okay. Bad eating habits have major health implications, not just for two or three years but for decades. This is where issues such as obesity, diabetes, heart, joint and back pain occur. Not eating properly can ruin your life.

“Food is our fuel and this machine – the human body – is more special than a space rocket or a Ferrari; if you put the wrong fuel into any machine it’s not going to work right.”

The renowned chef also claimed children are developing an unhealthy addiction to starch, salt and refined foods. “It’s hard to know how to address this addiction in kids who were raised without an appreciation for what it is like to eat healthy and feel vibrant as a result.”

During his visit Paul worked closely with catering staff to help prepare some of his signature nutritious meals which he served up to the audience.

Students from the university were pitted against the king of the Saturday Kitchen ‘Omelette Challenge’ and had a go at cracking the eggs under Chef Rankin’s watchful eye. During the challenge the chef was not surprised to hear that some students had close to no cooking skills and had never made an omelette before.

“The younger generation don’t seem as keen on eggs as my generation or the generation before me. In the past eggs were seen as a luxury due to the rationing during the war. For students eggs are great – something quick, easy and cheap. Also there are so many different ways to cook an egg.”

Mr Rankin’s observations follow recent comments by Birmingham City University nutrition expert Mel Wakeman who has urged for government intervention at school level.

“Children need better role modelling for healthy eating,” she commented. “If they only see potatoes as long, crispy thin strips and beans smothered in tomato sauce, how on earth can we expect children to know what ‘real food’ is?”