School strikes veg deal with urban chef

Author: By Richard Garner, Education Editor

The Petchey Academy in Hackney, east London, has struck a deal with “urban
chef” Oliver Rowe’s Konstam at the Prince Albert restaurant in nearby King’s

Fiona Hattersley-Smith, an assistant principal at the academy, said the
partnership would see the pupils’ produce served at the eatery.

Konstam at the Prince Albert featured on the BBC2 programme The Urban Chef and
has become famous for sourcing its produce within the M25 ? leading to
dishes such as East Ham mushrooms, Canvey sole, Norbury blue cheese and the
slightly medieval-sounding Amersham pigeon breast.

The school also hopes it will be able to send some of its pupils on work
experience to the restaurant.

“It’s nice to see the kids getting involved in growing things,” Rowe said.
“It’s really important that they have an understanding of what happens from
paddock to plate ? or food to fork.

“They can learn that carrots aren’t just things that you get in a plastic bag
in Sainsbury’s ? and that it can taste better if it’s not in a plastic bag.

“I would certainly love to take produce from schools to serve in my restaurant
? although I would pay an honest dollar for it. I wouldn’t want people to
think I was getting it on the cheap.”

Rowe’s restaurant boasts a north European cuisine. In 2004, he set up a cafĂ©
serving European food in King’s Cross. When a former pub came up for sale
across the road, he set himself a new challenge by opening a restaurant and
sourcing all of his ingredients from local producers. His mission was the
centrepiece of the BBC2 programme.

The Petchey Academy, one of the Government’s flagship academies which replaced
a struggling inner-city school, is the only one in the country to specialise
in medical science, health and social science. It has 650 pupils but plans
to expand to take in 1,300.

Food and healthy eating are central to its specialist curriculum. The school
employs two chefs to provide school lunches, one of whom doubles as a chef
at the Belgian Embassy.

The school’s organic garden has been operating for about a year. It produces
fruit and vegetables including courgettes, potatoes and pumpkins.

Pupils are also encouraged to take up gardening which staff consider an
excellent way of encouraging them to take exercise and combat obesity.

In addition, the school has struck a deal with an Austrian monastery, which
will supply the academy with herbs for a small medicinal garden that the
school has also established. Parents and the community have also been
encouraged to use this oasis of green in the centre of Hackney to farm their
own mini-allotments.

Rowe said that he hoped other schools would follow its lead.

Pupils have set up a “Green Team” which spends Wednesday afternoons working in
the organic garden while the national curriculum is suspended.

“I just thought it sounded really exciting,” said Daleel Gajra, 14. “We get a
chance to do things we wouldn’t normally do inside the curriculum.”

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