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Blunkett to launch luncheon learning

The national curriculum is being spiced up with a project to teach young people how to appreciate good food.

Chefs in Schools, a School Curriculum and Assessment Authority project to be launched next Tuesday, will also promote links between food experts, restaurants and chefs, and schools and colleges.

Anne Walden, the project director, has an impressive collection of foodies on her steering group. They include Prue Leith, restaurateur and chair of the Royal Society of Arts, Simon Parks, from Radio 4's The Food Programme, TV chefs Michael Barry and Sophie Grigson, and Gill Fine, chief nutritionist for Sainsbury's.

The group is led by Nick Tate, SCAA's chief executive, and soon to head the new Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. One of his first tasks when he takes up his appointment in October will be to launch the curriculum materials distilled from the experiences of 18 pilot food projects.

These include schools linked with two Chinese restaurants in Manchester; primary Victorian picnic-making in the kitchen of Petworth House in West Sussex; and Year 10 pupils from an Oxford school concocting surprise recipes with Birmingham College of Food.

One booklet will look at themes such as food in the curriculum, its social aspects, and nutrition and health. Case studies, based on the pilot projects, will cover food and celebration, working with restaurants, and the historical perspective.

Ms Walden said that although there was a serious purpose to Chefs in Schools, which will be launched by David Blunkett, it was important that pupils enjoyed themselves.

And some of them did last week, when 22 Year 6 pupils from Salusbury primary, a 600-pupil school in Brent, north-west London, ventured into the heart of London's Soho to the renowned Red Fort Indian restaurant and its new sister establishment, Soho Spice.

Their visit was the culmination of a key stage 2 technology project, lasting half a term, to design a restaurant. This involved creating the right atmosphere, devising menus, calculating costs, and acting as hosts and guests.

Teacher Rebecca Cowley said some were so keen they took their plans home to perfect. The most enthusiastic were chosen to go to Soho, and she plans to ask them to cook for those left behind: "We'll see how much they remember."

It should be an impressive occasion, for they were taught by masters. First, Sitangsu Chakravarty, top chef of the Red Fort, demonstrated how to make a bhuna murg (chicken curry). After sampling it the children went round the corner to Soho Spice to have a go themselves.

Kuldeep Singh, the head chef, handed out aprons and hats, and pupils took turns to stir onions, add spices and taste the results.

Rajesh Suri, general manager, was keen on the project. Not only would it produce future customers, but future chefs. "We're trying to encourage young people from this country to cook Indian food instead of importing chefs from the sub-continent," he said.

"Can we keep our hats?" asked one boy afterwards. "They'll be good to put chips in."

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