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Wholesome cooking takes to the road

Thursday, 13 October 2016

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Superstar chef Jamie Oliver has built his reputation on the idea that anyone can learn to cook — and now ECU is helping spread that philosophy through Western Australia.

The University has been playing host to Jamie’s Ministry of Food program, with a mobile kitchen visiting the Joondalup and South West campuses as part of a three-year partnership.

Every week, the mobile kitchen is home to 18 cooking classes, each lasting 90 minutes, teaching groups of up to 12 basic but lifelong cooking skills.

ECU’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Strategic Partnerships) Cobie Rudd says ECU is the first university in Australia to have major partner status with Jamie’s Ministry of Food and the students are the first Jamie’s Ministry of Food interns in the world.

“ECU is about transforming lives through teaching and research,” she says.

“From the start we saw a close alignment with this initiative in encouraging diversity, fostering the achievement of personal excellence and sustainability, advancing health and wellness, and strengthening local communities and social connections.”

Students of any ability, and almost any age, attend the courses for seven weeks, mastering simple but wholesome cooking skills in the process.

The result is easy but sensational eating, says Marie Fitzpatrick, manager of the mobile kitchen and who incidentally, is an ECU graduate.

“We are really open to everyone and take a back-to-basics approach,” she says.

“For those who don’t have much confidence or who have not had the opportunity to cook, this is the cooking class for them.

“And as much as we use simple recipes, the food is really delicious — things you can impress your friends with.

“Jamie sets out to have a positive impact on everyone and it means the courses are very non-threatening, so we have had children with their parents, people of different ages, even people with physical disabilities learning to cook.”

The Ministry of Food mobile kitchen is backed by not-for-profit organisation The Good Foundation with a number of partners nationwide.

Besides teaching community members critical skills, the program also offers industry experience and research opportunities for students and staff.

A recent evaluation of the program found participants who took the cooking courses increased their number of home-cooked meals and reduced consumption of take-away food.

They also boosted their daily intake of vegetables — with results sustained six months after completing the program.

Fitzpatrick says the feedback she receives from participants backs the notion that good food leads to happier people.

“I am surrounded by food and positivity every day,” she says.

“It’s just fantastic.”

Jamie’s Ministry of Food van is due to return to Joondalup campus in October. Classes can be booked through Jamie's Ministry of Food Australia webpage.

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