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I have recently started with Edinburgh Food Social as a Community Chef Trainer. The role is part of a three-year project which aims to provide in-person training sessions to individuals and groups of all ages and backgrounds within Craigmillar.

My initial training in the culinary industry was in fine dining in London. Whilst working in fine dining provides great experience, I always felt, as I have with previous jobs, that I wanted more purpose to my work.

As a team member at Edinburgh Food Social, it is important to become part of the local community. An early part of my role involved getting out there. I spent a day with The Greenhouse Pantry followed by a day at Craigmillar GP Surgery to ask locals what their needs are at the moment and what they would like to see us include in our free community cooking classes and dinners.


Andrew at The Pantry ready to use donated veggies as part of a community cooking class

My day at The Pantry was eye-opening. As people were already in a food setting, striking interesting conversations with them about the role food plays in their lives was quite natural. People were very open and keen to chat about their food insecurities as well as their food preferences and activities.
There was a clear sentiment echoed by nearly everyone I spoke with that things are tough right now. Bills are high, food prices are high and therefore in general a lot of people are really struggling to create a balanced nutritious diet for themselves and their families.
Another interesting takeaway was a trend that emerged from members of ethnic minority groups. In general, these community members showed the most enthusiasm toward attending free cookery classes in Craigmillar. Many of them expressed keen interests in cooking themselves. They specifically mentioned how they would love to learn more about cooking with locally-sourced Scottish produce. 
My day at the GP Practice was a little different from the Pantry day. As this is not a food environment approaching people needs to be more considered. I brought some free recipe kits with me to hand out to people and see who was up for a chat.
I assembled a healthy food bag with an accompanying recipe sheet for people to use. The recipe was a courgette, wild spinach, chilli and pearl barley risotto. We often use this ‘ever-changing’ risotto as it can be adapted for any season and any food preference. It’s also a great way of introducing people to a fantastic Scottish ingredient, pearl barley, rather than using traditional risotto rice. 
It was fascinating talking to people about the recipe because risotto can sound challenging for someone who hasn’t cooked it before. However, we often use this recipe for community cooking because it is very easy in practice and gives people confidence in their skills. The free recipe kits were snapped up within an hour or so of my arrival.
Generally, the feedback from the community here was very similar to those I spoke with at The Pantry. The first key theme that came up was the lack of ability for people to sufficiently feed themselves and their families. There was also a similar level of keenness towards some classes in the area. 
People were interested to attend classes to learn recipes that were similar to the risotto recipe kit. At both the Pantry and the GP surgery, it was clear that people’s diets are less healthy than they’d like them to be and that there is a desire to learn more about healthy cooking. 
As a Community Chef Trainer, I value the opportunity to meet more locals, community groups and businesses in order to deepen my own relationship with Craigmillar. As part of the larger team, I am excited to offer cooking classes that respond to what the Craigmillar locals want to learn and help keep the community well fed.

Browse our free community cooking classes and sign up to join us in the Edinburgh Food Social kitchen.