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In the News - Jay Rayner

Jay Rayner is the Observer newspaper's restaurant critic, a broadcaster and a novelist. He appears on MasterChef and is a critic on daytime cookery show Eating with the Enemy. He visited Telferscot Primary School in Lambeth, south London, to spend the day with six young cooks preparing for the Let's Get Cooking BIG Cookathon, which took place on 5 April.

What do you think of the children's meals?

"I am seriously impressed. When you see what they are cooking - scallops with miso, pesto from scratch - it's not pizza with smiley faces. The school has been ambitious; the knives are out, the heat is on. It's proper cooking."

Do your kids cook?

"I have an 11-year-old and a seven-year-old. I go around reviewing restaurants but I can't always eat in restaurants, so I cook at home and I think cooking with the kids is really important."

Why is it so important?

"There are two issues: cooking is a brilliant way to give children a sense of autonomy. It is about introducing them to controlled risk with a brilliant, tangible outcome - and it is a great life skill. Healthy eating starts with learning to cook."

Aren't children just interested in eating?

"There is an enormous burst of food programming on television, which I know a lot of children watch. Young people know me from MasterChef. There is no reason they should just be spectators."

How can schools find time to teach cooking?

"If Michael Gove's agenda is what he says it is, and he is going to step back from a prescriptive curriculum, then there must be space for this."

The spaghetti carbonara is ready. Your verdict?

"If I was not in a room with lots of people I would bury myself in that and finish it."

On the menu at Telferscot Primary:

Pan-roasted scallops with wild garlic and miso sauce by Nico Ducceschi, 9

Stew and rice (his grandmother's recipe) by Shaan Kohli, 8

Herby falafel by Sinead Barton, 9

Spaghetti carbonara with peas by Jude Fredman, 11

Home-made pesto with tagliatelle by Betty Miller, 11.

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