Children inspiring children.
A not-for-profit organisation, Cook School was founded by mum and cookbook author Amanda Grant and her husband Kristian in 2019. Its focus is in equipping Britain’s young people — primarily in underprivileged communities via partnerships with state schools — with the skills, knowledge and confidence to cook meals at home that are delicious, affordable and healthy.
Cook School, as a social enterprise, began by hosting in-person cooking classes with primary schools across the UK. During the course of an afternoon, up to 200 students learn how to cook a simple, yet nutritious, meat-free meal from scratch: to date, more than 120,000 students have enjoyed a hands-on class. Taught by the Cook School team, supported by volunteers, the aim is to engage children in the act of cooking, equipping each with recipe cards to easily recreate that dish at home.
Ingredients and equipment lists are purposefully straightforward: each is designed with a consideration for what each child will have ready access to at home. Every recipe feeds four: dishes generally cost around £1 per head.
“We want children to be empowered through our learning,” says Amanda. “We’re trying to help them understand that food comes from all different countries, that there are lots of different cultures and different ways of cooking. But everything has an absolute focus on accessibility at all times.”
The success of the in-person classes — and the desire to reach more children — led to the development of the Cook School digital curriculum. This 10-week course, which is given to state schools free of charge, is a video series hosted by a child cook. In class, children learn how to cook from another child, which Cook School has found boosts engagement. Dishes include curried vegetable samosas, which are made using tortilla wraps instead of pastry; leftover pita pizza, and lasagne. It is currently taught in over 200 schools across the UK.
“We’re encouraging students to see food differently, and make a meal using what’s left in the store cupboard,” says Kristian. “We’re teaching cooking, but we’re also teaching sustainability. We understand what the poverty line is. We want to give kids the tools to create using what’s available. Everything is done to ensure those with the lowest means can still carry out our recipes.”
Partnerships with key sponsors is critical to Cook School’s success.
To date, it has been supported by the Linda McCartney Foods, World Cancer Research Fund and Electrolux Food Foundation in providing funding, food and equipment.
Adjacent to its work with underprivileged communities, Cook School is also a purposeful brand. It operates a Cook School storefront, in Lewes, East Sussex, which sells artisanal, at-home wares, and at-home recipe kits. Priced from £15, all profits from these boxes, which include ingredients, are donated to the state school programme.