What’s Cooking? A social enterprise for young people

Hackney is full of amazing people doing amazing projects that are making a real difference, I caught up with Lucy Moorehead to find out more about a project she is involved in running called What’s Cooking?


What is What’s Cooking?

It’s a social enterprise that gets young people working in the real world. Young people learn how to cook delicious, healthy food and how to run a cafe, from taking orders to making a darn good cappuccino. They work one-to-one and so are able to have the space and support to have conversations about what is important to them and the challenges they face. As well as learning practical skills and receiving holistic support, the young people have the opportunity to work in an innovative, entrepreneurial local business in their community. After a series of weekly workshops young people host an event at the café to celebrate their achievements and put their skills to the test.

Who is behind the project?

Bea Stevenson and Lucy Moorehead started What’s Cooking? in the Autumn of 2011 and ran the pilot project in March 2012 at The Russet, a beautiful community-focussed café (part of the Hackney Downs Studios, a large set of studio spaces for creatives in east London run by Creative Network Partners).

Bea and Lucy have worked with children who have the most challenging home lives, social lives and barriers to education in this country. Bea through working in Peckham as a primary school teacher, followed by working for Tower Hamlets and then at Teach First. Lucy through working in inner-city secondary state schools, pupil referral units and then a residential intervention charity – Jamie’s Farm.

What do the children involved gain from taking part?

There is a chronic need to engage young people in their community, equip them with skills and give them the space and time to reflect and decide who they want to be – something that 30+ class sizes, cut-backs on more practical education and the over-professionalisation/rising student fees are helping to exacerbate. Children get the opportunity to experience real work and how rewarding and engaging it can be. They also gain critical skills which will be useful at school, in their personal lives and in life after school. The young people get to meet and work with inspiring people and learn how to put on a fantastic event in their own community.

How can the people of Hackney get involved, either to help run it or as a student?

Teachers, young people and parents can contact What’s Cooking? to plan a project for their school. If you are a café who would be interested in supporting What’s Cooking workshops let us know! Also, if people are interested in volunteering then please get in touch.

How did you get involved with the Russet?

Lucy was introduced to The Russet through Creative Network Partners. Henry Trew who founded the Cock and Bull Festival to raise money for Jamie’s Farm suggested Lucy come along to the initial meetings when The Russet was in it’s planning stage. The spirit of the café tied in perfectly with the What’s Cooking? aims and so the partnership was born.

Why does this work in Hackney?

What’s Cooking? works in Hackney because there is the perfect combination of many young people who need the opportunity to learn skills that get them work, alongside some of the coolest, most innovative and creative businesses in London. What’s Cooking? is simply joining up these two things.

What have been your favourite moments while running What’s cooking?

I think watching the faces of young people as a delicious batch of flapjacks emerges from the ovens or as one of chefs tastes their creations and says it’s actually pretty good. Also watching the young people serving and engaging customers and getting a real kick out of doing a brilliant job.

What’s the future of the project?

This term we are running two projects with the City Academy. Come on down to either of the events on Tuesday 14th May 2013 or Tuesday 25th June at The Russet.

Anything else you would like to add?

Our website is: www.whats-cooking.org.uk

Contact details: Lucy Moorehead on lucymoorehead[at]hotmail.com and Bea Stevenson on justbea[at]hotmail.com