Multi award-winning Peak District hotel and restaurant East Lodge has joined forces with Rowsley Primary School, to launch the Great Rowsley Menu. The hotel has provided the pupils with their very own vegetable plot and in the summer they will pick and prepare what they have grown and together with East Lodge head chef Simon Bradley they will design and serve the fruits of their Great Rowsley Menu at the ultimate school dinner in July. But rather than for judges like Matthew Fort, Prue Leith and Oliver Peyton from the TV series, they will be preparing and cooking for the harshest critics of all – mum, dad and their own teachers!
The pupils came along to East Lodge last week to prepare the ground for their plot, and will be assisted throughout the project by hotel directors Iain and David Hardman and head chef Simon Bradley. With the ground marked and planted, the pupils will now come along each week to tend their plot, in preparation for the showcase event at the end of term. The children are already excited about the project, with one pupil proclaiming on arrival that “East Lodge is the best hotel in the world!”
As well as the fun of growing, and the ultimate climax of the Great Rowsley Menu and dinner, the pupils will learn about fruit and vegetable growing, nutrition, and the world food map – ie: where things grow naturally. The children will also get an insight into how to look after East Lodge’s all important chickens, that provide so many of the free range eggs for the East Lodge breakfast table.
The hope is that the project will encourage the children to follow healthy diet and lifestyle choices and start to understand the local food chain and the importance of supporting local producers. So while having some fun along the way; the project has a serious side too.
“We all have a part to play in teaching our children about the importance of eating well so everyone at East Lodge is excited about helping the children of Rowsley Primary School with their Great Rowsley Menu,” said Iain Hardman, director at East Lodge. “Children are much more willing to try fruit and veg if they have grown, picked and prepared it themselves, and we are looking forward to seeing and sampling the results of their efforts later in the year. If this project also inspires the children to see how fantastic our industry can be and the wonderful career opportunities it offers, then we will have done our job.”
In having Simon Bradley on hand as their guide in designing and cooking their menu, the children are in for a rare treat. In the best traditions of the Great British Menu, Simon is one of the top chefs in the country, having trained at the world renowned Ritz in Paris for several years before perfecting his culinary skill with Raymond Blanc at LeManoir. Simon has also worked for Great British Menu critic Oliver Peyton, so the children will have much to inspire them. As well as the Great Rowsley menu project, Simon has been invited to showcase his culinary skills at both the Buxton Festival and at the Fine Food Village at the Chatsworth Country Fair later this year.
East Lodge is the perfect location for the Great Rowsley Menu, as the home of one of the finest hotel and dining experiences to be had not just in this region, but the country. Owned by the Hardman family, the hotel can boast a prestigious range of accolades to its name. These include the coveted AA “Inspectors’ Choice”, with three red stars for 2010 placing it within the top 150 hotels in the UK and East Lodge remains just one of 48 hotels in the country presented with a Visit England Gold Award.
The success of campaigns led by schools and celebrity chefs like Jamie Oliver have helped drive home the message that eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day can contribute to a healthy diet, while also raising the profile of not just chefs, but the hospitality and tourism industry more generally. Hopefully the children will not only be learning the secrets of a healthy lifestyle, but will have the opportunity to see the hospitality and tourism industry as a potential future career.