Nursery cooking qualification set up by LEYF

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The first national qualification for early years chefs is being developed by nursery chain the London Early Years Foundation (LEYF).

LEYF, formerly called the Westminster Children's Society, is working closely with a qualified chef and its own cooks to create a more focused training and support programme.

The qualification will equip chefs with basic cookery skills such as how to make bread and how to gut a fish.

The LEYF is working with the Sector Skills Council to have the scheme endorsed.

LEYF chief executive June O'Sullivan said, 'There is no qualification for early years chefs and very few standards. The School Food Trust is putting effort into school dinners, but not early years.

'We have 15 chefs at LEYF. Some are qualified and some aren't, but they all have a shared level of enthusiasm.'

After looking at where its nursery food is purchased and how fresh it is, LEYF has begun a new initiative called Fresher By Miles to source food locally. In a trial, six nurseries will be buying meat, vegetables, eggs and some dried foods from a farm in Kent. The aim is that food will arrive at an LEYF kitchen 24 hours after it has been harvested.

Ms O'Sullivan said, 'The benefits of buying food from the farm are enormous. It is better quality and doesn't cost any extra money. Research shows that the faster you get food after it has been harvested, the fresher and better for you it is.

'We provide most of the children's meals and the parents rely on us, so it's important to provide good quality food and improve the experience for children.'

The chain's nurseries currently purchase their food from local supermarkets. The new initiative will help the LEYF achieve environmental management standard ISO 14001, which it says is a first for the sector.

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