Great British Menu Chef, Amber Francis, joins award-winning Chefs In Schools

Women in The Food Industry member and award-winning chef, Amber Francis, hailed as one to watch on Great British Menu, is taking on a new challenge – cooking incredible food in a school as she joins Chefs In Schools. The pioneering non profit, Chefs in Schools recently won a BBC Food and Farming Award – the Derek Cooper Award for Outstanding Achievement. 

Amber has joined Christ’s College Finchley as the Head Chef and Senior Food Educator, to introduce a new way of working to improve the quality of school meals, at the same time educating and inspiring children about the benefits of cooking food from scratch.

Amber Francis at service at Chefs In Schools

Young Chef of The Year joins Chefs In Schools

It’s a big change for Amber, who recently won the coveted Young Chef of the Year award, headed up the restaurant Maene, in Shoreditch, and – hailing from Bristol- represented the South West in the cooking competition Great British Menu

However, Amber believes in the power of food in changing young lives and is delighted to take on this new role.  

As well as serving up incredible food, all made from scratch – such as aubergine curry with pilaf rice, fresh fish – prepped and breaded in house, she has plans to start an orchard and grow produce on site.

Amber Francis at work at Chefs in Schools

Impact of Chefs in Schools

Amber says: “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that I couldn’t say no to. I’m absolutely thrilled and really excited to get stuck in. Teens and kids are the toughest customers – their feedback is more intimidating and honest than most food critics and I can’t wait for the challenge!”

Headteacher at Christ’s College, Mr Olusanya, is delighted about the positive impact the partnership will have.

Mr Olusanya said: “The quality of food that school children in England consume is too high in fat content and too low in vitamins and minerals. To keep them healthy we need to encourage them to consume more fruit and vegetables as well as keeping active. I also think there needs to be a real emphasis on sustainability in eating. Many of our young people have a real drive and consciousness for looking after our planet as well and educating young people will be an important step forward.”

Chefs in Schools at the BBC Food and Farming Awards 2023 - Winners of Derek Cooper Outstanding Achievement Award

Chefs in Schools are looking for more chefs and schools

On hand to help Amber make the transition from a top restaurant to a school kitchen are Nicole Pisani (pictured right), co-founder of the school food charity, Chefs in Schools, and one of the charity’s chef trainers, Andy Pycroft. 

Chefs in Schools reaches tens of thousands of children every school day. They give school kitchen teams the skills and confidence to make nutritious food from scratch because research is clear – improve school food, health, attainment and wellbeing improve too. 

The charity is looking for more schools in the Cornwall, Devon, London and Yorkshire to work with and for chefs, like Amber, to come onboard who want to fuel the future.

Nicole Pisani, the charity’s co-founder, hit the headlines when she left a role as Head Chef at Ottolenghi’s NOPI to become a school chef – an experience which she will turn into advice for Amber.

Nicole said: “Everything you are used to changes – it is a different kind of pressure and there is a far greater work/life balance but there is also the thrill of using your creativity to fuel the future and spark curiosity about varied diets and exciting food. You must build the confidence of your new team, who will have a wealth of knowledge and recipes they cook at home for family but may not feel confident to cook for pupils. Working in school food is a job for a special chef who relishes a challenge, cares about feeding people great, nurturing food and wants to make a difference to future generations.”

Amber Francis in the kitchen at Chefs in Schools

Amber’s Challenge

Amber’s passion for cooking started at a young age, and she hopes to inspire that early excitement about food in the young people she will now be cooking for. 

Amber says: “It’s going to be a real challenge to work out what these students want. This is going to be a fun amalgamation of my professional experience and cooking for myself and friends and family.

“I have some ideas but want to work with the current team on site to learn their expertise. So much untapped knowledge for food is there. It’s not just about what I want to cook and that’s really exciting!”

To find out more about Chefs in Schools, visit: www.chefsinschools.org.uk

Chefs in Schools work with a number of like minded organisations and NGOs to help educate school children on where their food comes from and help increase the quality of food in schools. One of those organisations is the charity School Food Matters. Our co-founder, Mex Ibrahim, was delighted to recently join the board of trustees of School Food Matters and you will hear more from her in the future of that new role. In the meantime you may like to read our interview with Stephanie Slater CEO and Founder of School Food Matters. 

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