StrEAT Food Awards interview
We chat to Dan Kirkpatrick, executive development chef for Angel Hill Food Co and our last – and longest running! – champion, about his altruistic new project, @eatandtwoveg...
What inspired your new project?
I saw all the school food boxes coverage; I think Chartwells were certainly used as scapegoat for it! That could have easily been any contract caterer, to be honest with you. The government didn’t really tell the full story. They put it out to a private company who need to pay wages. Everyone was saying, ‘This isn’t X amount’ – but it was never going to be that amount because of the way the government structured the deal.
I had a think and I realised that the problem isn’t really the meal boxes, it’s that people are being sent a load of ingredients and either: they are on a budget; they are used to buying the same things over and over again; or they cook from a repertoire of about 15 different dishes. To be honest, I’m guilty of that too; it’s just easier a lot of the time.
The thing is, when people run out of inspiration, the supermarkets do some amazing spices and blends, so there is loads of potential. But people are being given a box of ingredients and being told, ‘Off you trot’. Whereas someone like me can say, ‘Oh, you can make five or six meals out of that’.
How does it work in practice?
We have set up Facebook and Twitter pages and we started doing recipes using ingredients from Iceland, Aldi, Tesco, Morrisons, Asda and Sainsbury’s. They’re from myself, or whoever, because I’m trying to get as many chefs as possible involved, providing recipes for a family.
The only rules are that we try and stay under £6.50 for the main course for four people and £2.50 for the dessert. We fully cost it and and say which particular supermarket we got the ingredients from; we use the supermarket websites for the most up-to-date prices. We just try and use simple ingredients, and we give things fun names so the children can interact and cook alongside you.
What sort of dishes have you been recommending?
[Laughs] Well, the desserts are obviously really popular; kids always like to make them. This week was probably the most popular for feedback. People have got cupboards full of stuff that never gets used, I know I have, so we put a message out asking what people had that needed using up so we could help them. We had a phenomenal response, I think over a hundred people messaged. It was mainly things like jars, bottles, tins, that sort of thing.
What chefs have you got on board?
I spoke to people from a few different contract caterers at the beginning and they were enthusiastic, but then they were a bit coy which is odd. I’ve certainly had people from within my company, Angel Hill Food Co, CH&CO and Elior, and from restaurants. There isn’t any conflict, it’s just a free recipe sharing database, so I’m hoping that by doing this interview, more chefs will get onboard.
There are great chefs in the industry; the ones I’ve met through competing at the StrEAT Food Awards, some brilliant, inspirational people with some fantastic ideas… it would just be great if they got involved. I don’t make money out of it, no-one does, it’s literally for chefs sat at home on furlough, let’s help out some families.
Also, this latest lockdown has been a lot harder. Chefs are used to working at a hundred miles an hour, so going from full throttle to just sitting there, I’ve found doing this very helpful and I’m sure other chefs would too.
What are your plans for the future?
A lot of it will be about education, whether it’s for the parents or for the kids. We are trying to use fresh fruit and veg, as easy as it is to say, ‘There’s a burger, eat your food’. I’m sure we have all done that. It’s quite worrying when you go to schools and the kids ask you, ‘What’s that?’ ‘It’s a piece of broccoli!’
Well, we hope to see you in ‘real life’ again soon, perhaps even at the StrEAT Food Awards…
Yes, well, I qualified for the 2020 finals that ultimately didn’t happen, so I will certainly be competing when it does. I’ve been telling people that I’m the longest reigning champion of all-time, so maybe you get me a trophy for 2020 too!
You can get more information at www.facebook.com/eatandtwoveg, or on Twitter @eatandtwoveg