Cooking up a storm at Millie College

by Helen Barnes // November 21 2022

Cooking is the theme of Livability’s Christmas campaign, going live this December. To whet your appetite, we find out how catering forms part of the curriculum at Livability Millie College. Enterprise Manager Annabelle Pearsall tells us more …

Annabelle, tell us about how and why catering is taught at Livability Millie College?

It’s part of our Enterprise curriculum, which equips students with the core skills they will need for the world of work, which might be paid work, apprenticeship or volunteering. Other core areas we teach are horticulture, animal welfare and nature conservation. The catering part of the curriculum allows students to learn some of the skills we all need in life, like safety in the kitchen, excellent hygiene standards, healthy eating and following instructions such as a recipe to get the end result. Because of our fantastic countryside site, we are creating a circular economy, where we can plant vegetables and herbs, fertilise the veg garden with animal waste, use fresh eggs and produce as we cook, and then use suitable leftover vegetables for our animal’s diet.

It’s important that the students learn about being sustainable too and recycling resources where possible. We are able to cook outdoors on an open fire or with the pizza oven, which is very popular. All our students, post-16 and post-19, can learn these skills and we adapt our learning to suit any additional needs.

How do students take these skills beyond the classroom?

A very direct route will be via the café we plan to open on the site, which will benefit the local community and the public who come here to walk and enjoy nature on our open days. Initially, I think this will be concentrating on a few things we can do really well, like amazing cakes and coffee – we plan to train students as baristas, too. Students will be able to use these skills in the week to support our open days at the weekends. Students are enjoying being at Millie so much, some of them don’t want to go home on a Friday, so I think there’ll be willing volunteers to help run the café!

We’re starting small this year with open days, inviting parents and carers of prospective students along, with refreshments served by the students. Next year, we hope to be selling our eggs and veg boxes and homegrown plants from the site, and we also have a retail space at a nearby Courtyard Craft Centre, where students can learn to handle money, provide good customer service and build their confidence. The college opened only two months ago, and we’ll be adding to the catering curriculum in 2023.

How have students responded so far?

Very positively! To quote their feedback, Adam told me he enjoys cooking because ‘it’s homemade so nice to do – not shop-bought. Gives me a bit of independence and it is nice trying different things. It’s good when we are harvesting the vegetables and then cooking them’ and Sarah said it gives her confidence and independence. Students get the opportunity to try many different areas of enterprise and find out what they really enjoy, and then we can take that further with them. It’s very individually focused on needs and abilities.

What impact is this having on your students?

Already it’s amazing to see the difference in students – they have more confidence and will talk to people about their day, some have even been in front of a camera for short videos we’ve made about how they have found their first term at Millie College.

How do you see this developing?

An important part of my role is building connections with local businesses and organisations, where we can arrange visits for students, maybe apprenticeships or volunteer slots, and open up opportunities for them that will build skills and support their transition into the world of work. I’m building a network of contacts and the local support has been amazing – people love what we do here, they’re really on board, and of course, the site is so amazing for visitors to enjoy that we wish to build the offer and amount of open days to support the demand. I hope this will lead some of our students into a future career in catering and hospitality.

Click here to register for our Christmas recipe cards and Christmas Cooking book – all free, with recipes from our services and education sites, and keep an eye out for the new recipe card donated by Millie College in December.