Announcement : Natalie Coleman becomes our ambassador & and interview with Natalie on how teaching at the cookery school at St Luke’s beats winning Masterchef !

 

We have fantastic news to share.  Masterchef winner Natalie Coleman has agreed to become an ambassador to the Cookery School.  This means that Natalie becomes the perfect role model for the children in our community as she is hard-working, honest, fun and of course a fantastic cook.

I am sure many of you know who Natalie Coleman is, but there will be others who have not heard of her.  Natalie won the prestigious Masterchef competition back in 2013 and became the second woman ever to win such an accolade.  She recently appeared as a judge in the current competition and again won the hearts of millions with her natural charm and witty enthusiasm.

I would like to share an interview Natalie did for the school.

CSCS:  Thank you for becoming our ambassador, can you tell us a bit about yourself?  

Natalie: I’m a born and bred Londoner, and local girl to the Cookery School. I grew up not really knowing what I wanted to be, so my Mum suggested I went into Finance because I got good grades in school in Maths. Straight out of college I went into the accounting world and started studying to become an accountant. I worked for 12 years in finance however for 7 years in my spare time I promoted Nightclubs around the East end of London which lead me into DJ-ing. This filled the void and boredom I found in the 9-5 job. My auntie Ellen made me apply for MasterChef every year for 5 years. In the fifth year I was accepted onto the show and the rest is history.

Since MasterChef I’ve had the most amazing opportunities and experiences ever!  I co-wrote MasterChef the Finalists with Larkin and Dale, then at the end of last year released my first cookbook “Winning recipes for everyday”. I’ve been lucky enough, thanks to Karen Ross at MasterChef to have 14 work placements at some of the best restaurants in the UK and learn from chefs like Tom Kerridge, Daniel Clifford, Michel Roux Jnr, Simon Rogan, the list goes on…. as well as getting involved with Jamie Oliver’s Food foundation where I’ve gave masterclasses to his Fifteen apprentices, done a pop up, appeared at Big Feastival, go into schools for the kitchen garden project as well as getting involved with Food Revolution Day 2014 which set a world record.

The response after MasterChef from the public was mind blowing especially the letters/emails I received from parents and children. At BBC Good Food Show just after I won the show back in 2013 I had an army of children come to visit me and one little girl, Sacha had a t-shirt with me on it, saying number 1 fan which left me speechless. Because of the amazing response from the children and the parents I felt a need to do something with Children. This onto going into Primary and Secondary schools and brought me to Central Street Cookery School. After a meeting with Sofia, she shared my passion and the half terms lessons that I hold were born there.

Every half term we hold four sessions over two days where we have children from 6 to 16 come along with or without their parents. We cook two dishes one sweet, one savoury and basically have lots and lots of fun. We try and use as much fruit and veg as possible and they get to take their creations home with the recipes to their parents. We have many regulars now and one of the kids mum’s said “Natalie, I don’t know what you’ve done to Lola but she’s never eaten a banana in her life. I can’t believe she’s eating them, you must have cast a spell on her” When you get comments like that, that beats winning MasterChef as you have made a small change in a kids life which can affect their teenage/adult eating habits.

 

CSCS:  What is it like to be in masterchef and winning?

Natalie: The first day was very surreal. It felt like you were watching the TV but you were actually inside it. Seeing John and Gregg for the first time was weird, but once they set us off on our first task you forget about it, and are focused on what you’re doing. The cameras were strange on the first day, but then day two you don’t even notice them. There are no clocks in the studio so on the second day I wore a watch which I wore for the rest of the competition to keep track of time. Time went so quickly so you always needed to keep your eye on the clock. It was an amazing experience and we got to cook for some of the best chefs in the country. Italy was fantastic in the finals but I think my favourite parts were when we cooked for Michelin star chefs, as their feedback meant so much to me. Hearing comments that were good from John and Gregg was great, but to hear positive things from 2 and 3 Michelin starred chefs was just mind blowing and a massive boost to my confidence.   I did have a lot of sleepless nights and a lot of tears throughout the competition as I was so stressed and worried that I wasn’t doing enough. I just wanted to get through to the next round. I never thought about winning the competition. When they called my name out I was in a state of shock as I thought Larkin was going to win. It was just the perfect ending to one of the best experiences of my life.

CSCS:  How did you get involved with Central Street Cookery School in the first place?

Natalie: I approached Sofia just a few months after the series aired. I wanted to host cookery lessons for children that were a non-profit operation. After a few conversations, Sofia said lets team up together and it went from there. The fee per class of £3 covers the costs of the ingredients and all the work involved is completely voluntary. St Luke’s is an amazing community hub for kids, elderly people, and families, just pretty much everyone in the community. Sofia and her team are amazing so always are running around behind the scenes to make sure everything we need is there on the day and that we have full classes by spreading the word. I’ve had some great helpers like Jayne who teaches at the school and also my friend Keri Moss who won Professional MasterChef in 2012.  There’s something at Central Street for everyone.

CSCS:  Why do you like cooking with children.

Natalie: I like cooking with the kids because you just switch off from normal everyday life and I can be a big kid for the day. I think that every child should know how to cook it’s one of the most important lessons you need for adult life. It’s slowly coming back into the education system but some kids don’t even know what potatoes are, they don’t know that a chip or wedge comes from a potato. With the growing problems with obesity in the country people turn to the easy option of ready meals or fast food because they are not being taught how to cook. If you don’t teach people they turn to junk food because they have no other choice. If you give people a choice then 90% will rather cook I have found. Getting kids cooking and interested in food early on means you can get them eating their fruit and veg and trying new foods that they wouldn’t try if they weren’t involved in getting their hands dirty. Plus they really also love it, their faces when we finished the lessons and they see what they have made is amazing! They are really proud and feedback from parents is that they go home and make them recipes at home. One girl every Friday now cooks for her parents because of the classes.

CSCS:  Any quick tip to aspiring chefs

Natalie: Practice makes perfect, and there is no wrong or right answer as it’s all up to personal taste. If you and your guests like it then that’s all that matters.

CSCS: That’s right, it is all about personal taste and enjoyment.  Thank you very much for giving us some time and we look forward to more classes.