Waking up, I often have a fleeting moment when Covid feels like just a gnarly nightmare – but then the truth hits.
It’s a similar sensation gazing at Rhyl Kitchen Classroom, our new community kitchen at Rhyl Primary School. Can it be true? Have we finally launched this fantastic new asset for Kentish Town?
This project has been a labour of love – and a hard slog. Five years ago, I had the dream of building a new community teaching kitchen at Rhyl Primary School, near Queen’s Crescent.
The vision was to create a food hub for the local area: a bespoke kitchen with commercial-grade equipment, set in our school’s edible garden.
The building was for our amazing pupils, of course, but also for people of all ages in the wider community.
A local baker, for example, might hire our ovens before school. Food start-ups could use the space as a production kitchen. We could host cookery workshops in the evenings, weekends or school holidays. A food festival in the summer.
But there was a snag. We needed to raise nearly £200,000 from scratch. Our school serves an area with high levels of socio-economic deprivation, with around 45% of pupils entitled to Free School Meals, so funds are scarce.
Back in 2015, Jamie Oliver visited the school to launch his global Food Revolution Day at the start of this project.
We set up stalls where children made pasta with Gennaro Contaldo and made instruments from vegetables. Gavin, our great friend from The Fields Beneath vegan coffee shop, also lent a hand and we sold him salads for his cafe.
Since then, staff have cycled from Chalk Farm to the Eiffel Tower. Sold jars of honey from our bees. Run International Evenings and cake sales. Nagged businesses for donations. And, of course, filled in countless grant applications.
There were many setbacks. But we never gave up. We taught cookery in the classrooms, lugging equipment up and down the stairs. We even invited Michelin-starred chef Giorgio Locatelli to give us a hand – he lives locally and adopted our school.
Now it’s built – and I still can’t believe it. The building is located in our Outdoor Classroom, where pupils nurture edible plants such as shiso, sorrel and Trombetta courgettes.
There’s a wood-fired oven, too, tiled by children as part of their topic on the Great Fire of London. It’s an unusual space – ideal for children’s parties, too.
The pupils at Rhyl Primary now use Rhyl Kitchen Classroom every day, learning from ‘plot to plate’. Our new curriculum, for example, has a topic on pizza where children sow wheat seeds, make the pizza dough, pick herbs and toppings and bake in the wood-fired oven.
Every Friday, I run a pop-up pizza restaurant for staff – with all proceeds to the kitchen. After school on Thursdays, the school chef and staff volunteers cook hot meals for the local food bank.
Want to get involved? Or hire the building? All are welcome in Rhyl Kitchen Classroom – that’s the whole point.
Tom Moggach is a food writer and teacher at Rhyl Primary School leading on food education and outdoor learning.