Thursday, 30 April 2015

Cookability: back to food basics for the twenty-first century

‘Knowing what to eat and knowing what’s good for you is a basic human right.’ Michael Davies, Cookability founder.

Michael Davies works for Cookability, a social enterprise which delivers cooking lessons to both 11-16 year old pupils in schools and individuals aged between 18 and 24.
‘I want to teach people how to cook and make good decisions about what to eat,’ says Michael.
Cookability was founded in 2013 to teach healthy cooking and eating skills to young people. They also support UK schools as they prepare to teach healthy cooking in the 2014 National Curriculum.
Cooking over takeaways
‘20-24 year olds: they’re the group I feel most need to learn how to cook because they’re on they’re own, and vulnerable to falling back on takeaway services,’ says Michael. ‘People need to eat, they don’t know how to cook, so they turn to what’s available and affordable, but the empty calories aren’t going to do your body any good.
‘I look to get them engaged using a very direct style, use lots of questions to get them thinking about what they’re doing. I let them play and have fun with what they’re doing, letting them experiment and explore.’
Budding food network
The Mini Cooking Club and Cookability connected through budding Public Food & Health Network brought together by academic Martin Caraher, which aims to unite the charitable organisations individually striving to improve the nation’s health through cooking and nutrition knowledge. This is especially fitting considering Cookability’s ethos.
‘Food and fellowship, food and socialising - it’s a big part of food.’ Oddly enough, a fact people often forget, in a culture of food-on-the-go and microwave meals for one.
Reaching out to schools
Michael’s been working on a project called 'Ingredients for Learning' which encourages supermarkets to donate leftover produce to cooking lessons in school. This overcomes one of the biggest barriers to many children learning how to cook: simple cost.
‘I think there’s a lot of long-term demand for free food at schools to teach kids how to cook.’
In return, Michael uses social media to communicate the message back to the community, raising the profile of the private organisations who are getting involved.
‘Sitting down and eating together, you just can’t beat it.’
Practical nutrition and skills
‘It’s about skills transfer, working with small groups of people, building their confidence with food and cooking, giving them some really practical knowledge about nutrition - e.g. the Eat Well plate which I use all the time to plan my own meals,’ says Michael.
‘Cookability promotes practical nutrition, cooking with real food and using ingredients that your grandparents would have recognised. Ideally avoiding processed ingredients - a back to basics for the twenty-first century.’
The wider picture
Michael has attended a french cooking school and also worked in New York kitchens, bringing an incredibly varied and vibrant background to the south London not-for-profit cooking scene.
In the future, he would like to reach out to older groups of people who may be dealing with isolation and loneliness.
‘Programs like Cookability and the Mini Cooking Club are about giving people a fundamentally positive experience with food, and practical doable steps that they can take forwards to develop their ability as cooks and their interest in food, giving them more choices for living healthier lives.’
Find out more about Cookability. If you’re from an organisation and would be interested in becoming involved in the Public Food & Health Network, please contact

1 comment:

  1. Nice post...I look forward to reading more, and getting a more active part in the talks here, whilst picking up some knowledge as well..