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While writing the School Food Plan with a colleague, Henry Dimbleby (a governor at his children’s state primary, Gayhurst Community School in Hackney) posted a tweet asking whether anyone would be interested in taking over the school kitchen. Nicole Pisani – then head chef at the acclaimed Soho restaurant Nopi – decided to take the gamble of a lifetime, applied and was offered the job by the school’s head, Louise Nichols. 


Since arriving at Gayhurst, Nicole has retrained the school cooks using the restaurant brigade system. They cook everything from scratch and bake bread daily. She has also taken charge of the cooking curriculum, teaching the children to butcher whole chickens and cook over fire pits in the playground. This work became the model for Chefs in Schools.


Five primary schools in Hackney now operate this model, and we have a further 15 schools in training across London.


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A significant part of changing the food culture in Gayhurst school was to marry the food in the dining room with the cookery teaching in the classroom and kitchen. 

We took lobsters and huge clams to look at and touch, then we served breaded mussels at lunchtime. We invited Japanese rice farmers to come and teach our pupils how rice is grown, then served them sushi.

Key to this success was taking on a Whole School Approach. This means that attitudes to all food wherever and whenever it crops up in school - whether in the classroom, at lunch or in the wider culture of the school – reflect the values at the heart of the enterprise. It means getting the whole school – children, teachers and parents - on board with the change.

If you would like us to improve the food culture and food education at your school, please click here to send us some information.





A significant part of changing the food culture at Gayhurst School was in the marrying of the food in the dining room and the cookery teaching in the classroom and kitchen. 


Our cookery curriculum consists of just seven lessons. Pupils learn to bake bread, make soup, prepare vegetables, to understand and cook eggs, to cook over fire, and finally, to make desserts – beetroot ice cream, in this case. 

This enables pupils to leave their primary school equipped to make simple, savoury meals on a very small budget, for themselves, their family and friends.

'Ensuring that every child eats well in school, develops a healthy relationship with food and learns to cook savoury dishes from scratch.’

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