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Cracking Good Food - a foodie revolution in Chorlton

PUBLISHED: 00:00 16 February 2015 | UPDATED: 12:24 17 May 2016

Adele Jordan and Juliet Lawson

Adele Jordan and Juliet Lawson

Archant

Wonky fruit and veg that supermarkets reject are helping two women teach communities how to cook. Emma Mayoh reports

Julet Lawson and Adele JordanJulet Lawson and Adele Jordan

When Adele Jordan met hundreds of creative cooks while working at a Chorlton grocers, it gave her an idea. Everyone, from students to pensioners, would raid the bin full of free vegetables at Unicorn Grocery at the end of every day – they were given away if they needed using up. The next day Adele, 50, would be amazed by the culinary treats people had managed to whip up.

‘It was incredible,’ she said. ‘One of the best parts of my day was listening to people come in and tell me what exciting meals they had made.

‘I couldn’t quite believe how imaginative people were with these vegetables that in any other shop would have been destined for the bin.’

It was that experience and her knowledge of the vast amounts of food going to waste in this country that prompted her to set up Cracking Good Food, a social enterprise that promotes cooking from scratch using sustainable and in season ingredients. It was first launched at Chorlton’s Big Green Festival in 2010.

Five years on and after putting lots of wonky and unwanted fruit, vegetables and other food to use, Cracking Good Food is flourishing. Adele and fellow director Juliet Lawson run the cookery school and community cooking network. They organise a huge diary of public cookery classes in Chorlton, Prestwich and Flixton on everything from artisan breadmaking and sushi lessons to how to make the perfect pasta and a course on Nepalese cooking. Talented cooks from the area host the sessions including well known Manchester chef, Robert Owen Brown, who does courses on ‘nose-to-tail’ eating. They also hold wild food foraging courses in and around Chorlton including at Chorlton Ees and West Didsbury. The sessions are led by Jesper Launder, a wild food expert who helps people to identify plants that he then cooks outside. Their work has earned them accolades including being named Food and Drink Pioneer at the Manchester Food and Drink Festival Awards.

Adele said: ‘It is just fantastic and we have such wonderful feedback from people. It’s so heartening to see how far we’ve come. Seeing people grow to love their food is truly rewarding. We’ve run 522 cooking sessions and cooked with nearly 10,000 participants.’

But a big part of Cracking Good Food’s work is community outreach where they work with vulnerable, disadvantaged and hard-to-reach groups including in the Probation Service and schools in East Manchester and communities where food banks are in huge demand. Adele and Juliet’s hopes are to teach participants how to enjoy making tasty, healthy and affordable food from scratch as well as giving people the confidence to cook.

The food they use for the community work comes from FareShare Greater Manchester, a food supply organisation that collects food waste and distributes it to different places, including food banks and organisations like Cracking Good Food. They also get food from local growers and farmers who have a glut of produce. This work not only supports the local economy and growers but it cuts down on food waste.

As well as hosting their own cookery sessions they are also helping community groups set up their own cookery clubs. This has helped bring people together who would never have met before.

Juliet, 45 and a former legal recruitment specialist, said: ‘The NHS in England and Wales spends over £7 billion a year tackling the long term health effects of poor diet. Manchester is the child poverty capital of England and it is almost impossible to eat healthily on a small income unless you know how to cook, especially with rising fresh food prices. There is fresh, tasty food that may have been rejected by a supermarket for not looking right and it is just being ploughed back into the ground. This shouldn’t and can’t happen.

‘We want to make a positive difference in our communities, bringing people together and strengthening social bonds through the love of good food. Food really can bring people together and good food should be a basic human right whatever your circumstances.’

Now Adele, along with sustainable food expert Corin Bell are also working on plans to open a cafe in Manchester city centre that will serve up food using ingredients that were destined for the rubbish bin.

The new café, which will form part of the larger The Real Junk Food Project, will use food that would have only been used for composting or waste. There will also be no charge to diners, instead they will be asked to pay what they thought the food was worth.

Adele and Corin, along with other organisations and businesses, are bidding to obtain a disused building in the city centre space for their project. If permission is granted the building will also house the head office of Cracking Good Food and will have a fully working teaching kitchen to be used for their cookery classes.

Adele said: ‘Good food should be available for all and not just for those who can afford to pay more. But it is also about breaking down barriers.

‘We’re really excited for what the future may bring for us and we really hope to keep making a contribution to making things better.’

For more information about Cracking Good Food visit www.crackinggoodfood.org

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