I am delighted to see so many supporters of ‘Love British Food’, here, at Buckingham Palace today to Celebrate ‘Cook for The Queen’. I’ve been involved in its work and its national food promotion, ‘British Food Fortnight’ for some years. A quarter of a century back I wouldn’t have been standing here extolling the virtues of British food – but we’ve come so far. I believe, it’s thanks to ‘British Food Fortnight’ along with our great farmers, artisan producers and inspirational chefs, that our national food and produce is something to shout about, which makes me, and I’m sure all of you, very proud.
Now I don’t pride myself on being a great cook – my son, Tom, is much better than me – or so he says! But I care passionately about good food and believe that teaching young people to cook, to understand ingredients and where they come from, should be an essential part of the school experience. Food is so much more than mere ‘Lifestyle’. Through food, we can learn about history, economics, culture and the environment. An understanding of eating well and healthily is of paramount importance, not just for our own health but for the well being of the country too. If we can instill in children a love of real food, properly produced, as well as the basic skills of cooking, then our future is in safe hands. Inviting children to ‘Cook for The Queen’ for Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee is an idea I had a year ago, which to my amazement has come to fruition, and it has been so encouraging to see how many schools have risen to the challenge. 208 schools entered from across the UK, from the tip of Cornwall to the top of the Shetland Isles and what has struck me is the tremendous imagination, determination, and innovation all these children have demonstrated in their brilliant menus. The standard was so high that the judges had a very difficult task indeed in selecting the winners. I particularly enjoyed hearing the comments of a teacher from one of these winning schools who noted that the children’s dedication to this competition was in no doubt when they volunteered to stay in at lunchtime and clean the classroom windows to make sure the room was ‘ perfect’ for their tea party guests!
I would like to say a huge thank you to the teachers and the parents who have taken part and also to the local producers who have supported the competition donating ingredients to schools to assist their entries. And I’d like to thank Mark Flanagan, the Head Chef here, for not only judging this competition but for all the help he and his team in the kitchens have given us.
Today I’m delighted to welcome the winning schools to Buckingham Palace for what is a historic occasion – the first time children have cooked for The Queen: Cape Cornwall School from Penzance, Latimer Arts College from near Kettering, St Columba’s Primary School, who have travelled all the way from Oban in Scotland, and Eastington Primary School from Gloucester.
I have just been down to the kitchen where they have been putting the finishing touches to their dishes and I know they are very excited about serving them to you - and I can tell you they are pretty delicious! So before Her Majesty joins us, I would like to thank you all for coming and I hope you enjoy the fantastic food the children have produced to commemorate this very special Diamond Jubilee.