The Academy Of Culinary Arts

Posted by editor 03/04/2014 0 Comment 3772 views

Royal Academy of Culinary Arts

Gastronomic leviathan Albert Roux still has a passion for passing on his enthusiasm for food, discovers Jenny McBain

Some might say Albert Roux is a brave man to take on the challenge of culinary education in a country with a reputation for unhealthy foods like the mythical deep fried Mars Bar. But he does not see it that way.  He says, “Scotland is a beautiful country with an abundance of good food.  I like to encourage children to eat well and not to eat snack food.”

The Academy of Culinary Arts was set up in 1980 by a coterie of top chefs with a shared vision.  They wanted to educate young people about the joys of good food. Albert Roux has been involved with the charity for the last 20 years and, catching up with him on his visit to Ullapool High school in the northwest highlands, it was clear that he has considerable cachet amongst the students.

As well he might.  Monsieur Roux has lived in the UK for over 50 years and he, along with his brother Michel founded Britain’s first three starred Michelin Restaurant – Le Gavroche in London.  And, of course, the kids have seen Albert’s son Michel junior on BBC’s Master Chef Programmes.

Albert visits five Highland schools three times a year to give cookery demonstrations and to talk about food.  This is part of the ‘Adopt a Chef’ scheme during which fourteen year old pupils are assisted in the preparation of a three course meal for which members of the community can buy tickets. A lot of the ingredients are donated and all proceeds go to charity.

In Ullapool, a community room adjacent to the high school was transformed into a dining room.  Tables were adorned with cloths and flowers and the walls were hung with tartan fabric and heather.  The menu featured seafood terrine, pot roasted lamb and cream of rice pudding with apple sauce.

As the star guest introduced his protégés, he said,”Tonight is not about fine dining, it is about enjoyment. It is a joy to see the kids in these hats being so enthusiastic about food.   Some of them have been cooking the food for you, others will be serving it.  I told them that if you smile in service and you make a mistake no-one will notice.  Look at them they are all smiling.”

True enough, a beaming team of around thirty 14-year-olds worked together to cook and serve a meal which – along with wine – was well worth the ticket price of £20 a head.

Young Willie Ingles plated up the food and then helped to do the dishes.  He said, “This whole experience has given me confidence around working in the kitchen.”

Fellow pupil Rebecca Ross was on the waiting team.  Her ambitions for the future lie outside of the kitchen in the realms of forensic science but she has been inspired by taking part in the project.  She said: “M. Roux and his assistant Glen kept coming to school and demonstrating.   They asked us to join in and I am glad I did. I got to taste some really good food.”

Head teacher Pete Harrison feels the children have learnt valuable lessons in teamwork through the project.  He added, “This is what education is all about; forming partnerships and offering experiences that are not available in other settings.”

As for M. Roux, he full intends to keep on mentoring the next generation.  He said, “I love kids.  They are the future.  In a country like Scotland where there is an abundance of good food in the wood and the crustaceans are the envy of Europe, you teach them that their country is a beautiful place, full of goodies.”

Clearly the rewards from such work are more straightforward and tangible than compliments garnered from food critics.  One pupil wrote to Albert Roux saying, “Dear Mr Roux, thank you.  You offered me crab and I told you I didn’t like it.  You told me not to say I don’t like things I haven’t tried, so I took some and now I like it.”

(The evening in Ullapool raised a total of £1200 which is to be shared equally between Cancer Research UK and Help for Heroes.)









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