Michey Chan’s usual job is preparing up to 1000 meals a day for hungry staff at iconic hotel, The Dorchester London. This popular chef has now gone back to school – Manorfield Primary School in Poplar, where he is now feeding the children of key workers and their teachers.
It has been 5 weeks since Michey and his team (three staff from The Dorchester London, chefs from Ottolenghi restaurant and school kitchen assistant Danny) took up this exclusive residency in the Manorfield Primary school canteen and he is being kept very busy. “I come in every day at 8.30am to start on lunch,” he says. “We try to plan the meals two days in advance but it depends on what supplies we have, what has been donated and what needs to be used up so there is zero wastage.” At the moment 25 children come in every day, with Manorfield operating as a hub for nearby schools too.
Supplies from local restaurants and grocers have been kindly donated so Michey needs to think on his feet a lot when it comes to menu planning. To cater for allergies, a lot of the menu is vegetarian including a Quorn spaghetti Bolognese, stews, salads and sweet treats. There is a meat option on Wednesdays and of course, fish on Fridays.
In an area that headteacher Paul Jackson describes as one of the most deprived parts of the UK, over half the kids at the school are entitled to free meals and 72 pupils are on the child protection register. A lot of the pupils live in inter-generational households and have been exposed to loved ones passing away during this crisis. The Dorchester have been working with the school since early 2019 and alongside Michey, they have raised funds to go towards equipment for their school kitchen and new furniture.
Michey has started running cooking classes for kids to keep them excited about food. “The kids have really good palates,” says Michey. They cook on a daily basis and they have had a go at making all sorts of adventurous dishes like a (non alcoholic!) Tiramisu as well as pizzas, bread and even fresh pasta.
Michey talked about how he wants food to come to life for them and said, “They go and find ingredients from the school’s edible garden to wash and prep with us before we help them turn their finds into a meal.”
The Dorchester have been really supportive of Michey and are also doing their bit to help. The Dorchester Collection’s UK hotels have together donated £25,000 to Hospitality Action, which supports hospitality workers financially and also helps feed their families. The hotel will light up its famous facade to pay tribute to the NHS and all the front line workers dedicating themselves to the fight against coronavirus.
Headteacher Paul Jackson feels that having professional chefs in schools on a more permanent basis is the next big thing in evolving school dinners. He describes Michey as “an Inspiration who has raised the standards of food at Manorfield forever and raised my awareness of what good food for young people should be. His enjoyment of food has permeated through the school and he has lifted our spirits.”
With help from The Dorchester and the local council, the school have launched a scheme where 450 food parcels a week are delivered to local families as well as 85 meals a day for children staying at home. To help fund these food parcels, the school have set up a fund raising page here: www.peoplesfundraising.com/donation/covid19-emergency-response-for-manorfield
Mr. Jackson summer it all up rather well and said, “One thing is certain: school meals here will never be the same again!”
Look who is supporting the @Manorfieldpri emergency appeal! Please join them and help us make sure no child goes hungry during this crisis. Click the link to donate: https://t.co/NG5mecyDV7 #youcanmakeadifference pic.twitter.com/qmmDDrsZe9
— Manorfield Primary S (@ManorfieldPri) April 24, 2020