Students from a school that has inspired its pupils to grow and cook their own food found an unusual worker joined their dinner ladies today - The Prince of Wales.
His Royal Highness dished up a pudding to one surprised A-level student when he visited Carshalton Boys Sports College with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.
The Prince stepped into the kitchen of the school in Carshalton, south London, to learn about the healthy eating options that have replaced burgers and chips. Rosie Wastell, 17, was left red-faced when she found The Prince behind the serving hatch taking her order for rhubarb crumble. But he forgot about the famous school custard which had to be poured by dinner lady Sandra Rudge, 43, from Carshalton. She said: "He should come and work with us, he's a character - he's lovely."
The 17-year-old said about being served by The Prince: "I think it's cool, but a bit embarrassing. He said if I want more I could come back."
Headteacher Simon Barber began the initiative to encourage his pupils to grow and cook their own produce, and today the school keeps chickens for eggs and grows a variety of crops from strawberries and lettuce to herbs on 16 raised beds. The meals served to pupils have also changed with frozen dinners replaced by fresh dishes like salmon with coriander and beef bourguignon.
The updated menu has encouraged young people back into the dining hall with the number of students choosing school dinners rising from 20% eight years ago to 90% today. The Prince and Jamie Oliver were given a tour of the school which has been helped to transform its approach to school dinners, nutrition and well-being by the Food for Life Partnership. Launched in 2007 it offers schools across England expert support from organisations like the Soil Association, Garden Organic, Focus on Food and the Health Education Trust.
The Prince, who is patron of the Soil Association, is a supporter of the Partnership which seeks to change food culture in schools. His Royal Highness and Oliver were shown the school chickens, kept in a secluded part of the grounds by the boys, and The Prince, who also rears the birds at his farm in Gloucestershire, confessed to the head teacher that his cockerels fight. The Prince gave one of the students a bit of advice: "Do you know what they like more than anything? Scraps from the kitchen." The party moved on to see the efforts of the 'Mud Club' - students who grow and tend plants and vegetables. Nearby the boys had erected a scarecrow that had been modelled on Oliver complete with his trademark plaid shirt and jeans, and with a bottle of olive oil sticking out of its shirt pocket. The TV chef put his arm around it and said to The Prince: "And a great likeness as you can see Sir".
Inside the school the two guests watched students cooking meals using some of the produce from the school garden and Oliver smiled when he found one student using his recipe for a Thai green curry. The Prince spent around 20 minutes chatting to children in the dining hall who had been patiently waiting for their lunch.
School chef David Holdsworth, 43, who joined the College four years ago, said: "I come from a restaurant background and I don't see why the boys shouldn't have restaurant style food when they come to school."
In his speech in praise of the efforts of the College's headmaster The Prince said: "All I can say is that having tried to encourage this kind of approach in other schools, it is wonderful to see what a difference something like this, in a school of this kind, can make.
"Not only to children's lives, to their health, to the general nutrition, also to attention spans and general concentration levels at school - which is one of the great findings of these projects.
"But also the effect that this can have on families and encouraging people to take a real interest in where their food comes from and cooking more."