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Posted on: 27th September 2023
David Pilling, the Head Chef at Nurture Catering, runs weekly Cooking Club classes. Nurture Catering, is the catering arm of the Crypt and has been servicing the homeless, vulnerable and marginalised for over 10 years.
Cooking club takes place in the training kitchen area in the Crypt. This kitchen was kindly donated by the HSBC Foundation a couple of years ago.
These classes are an attainable and enjoyable way for clients to improve their cooking skills. David lays out the ingredients beforehand, specifically choosing ones that are easily accessible for clients and reasonably priced, so they can replicate the meals made in their own time. Then in this supported and safe environment, David gives step by step instructions for clients to follow when preparing the meal. David chooses a different meal each week, some examples of meals are chilli con carne and spaghetti bolognaise.
To take part in these classes, clients express their interest to David and a maximum of eight clients can partake in each class.
David often buys frozen meat because it has a longer expiration date and could offer a more cost-effective option for clients when making their own meals.
These classes teach invaluable cooking skills that can really help clients, who are starting to live independently but have a recent history of homelessness, or those on their journey towards independent living. These skills range from the correct way to chop to cooking timings. Foremostly, highlighting to clients how simple and cost-effective making these filling meals can be.
When asked about Cooking Club David said that “it helps people live independently and how to make good value meals quick and easily. For example, today in Cooking Club we made a chicken curry in less than 15 minutes.”
When asked why providing this opportunity for clients is so beneficial, David said that:
“It’s not the cooking that is most important, it’s the confidence. It’s seeing the guys lift their shoulders. They came in on the first day, heads drooping, not looking me in the eye, not talking, but now you can’t stop them. We have people living with mental and physical health issues, addiction issues, everything really, but I think they appreciate a safe space where there are no expectations – all they have to do is cook and even that isn’t 100% necessary!”
Wayne, one of our clients who was a regular participant at Cooking Club said “I’ve learnt how to feed myself for a less price, it’s a bit cheaper for me because I don’t have much money and learn different ways to cook food instead of buying frozen stuff, putting stuff in the microwave and buying takeaways. It gets me out of my flat and around people, which I don’t normally do because I haven’t had a very good life with very nice people in it.”
“I don’t really have confidence...this is the first time I've been around this many people in a long time but yeah I’d give it a go everyone is nice, and I don’t feel uncomfortable.”
Chris, another client who attended Cooking Club says, “I’m getting to meet new people. It makes me feel better inside and I say definitely try it because it will be beneficial for you, so you don’t have to be stuck in a rut doing absolutely nothing. I love cooking food and I’ve learnt how to do a bolognaise.”
Cooking club is just one of the many great services that St George’s Crypt offers. Every weekday at Midday, the Crypt opens its doors and allows anybody to come in and have a hot meal in the Assisi Café canteen area.
These cooking classes contribute to the Crypt’s mission of supporting the vulnerable in Leeds by leading to pathways of activities, support and training to enable people to become independent. Foremostly the aim of changing lives in the city.