I'm Maria Hond, and I am the Director of The Budding Chef's Club. I was so happy to be crowned #QueenOf shortly before my 60th birthday! I run the club alongside my eldest daughter and my eldest grandson, in Worthing, West Sussex - although I would love to see the business expand much further than this in the future!
This is our story so far...
In January 2017, over a cup of tea and a conversation with my daughter, about how much my 7 Grandchildren desperately wanted me to teach them how to cook, the idea for a Saturday cooking club was formed. As the conversation progressed, my daughter fondly remembered me coming into her First School and teaching small classes of children to cook, and said it was a shame that this didn’t seem to happen in schools these days until children were much older. We noted that where it does happen, children are often asked to bring in pre-weighed ingredients in a suitable box, which although saves time at school, can be a pain when busy parents have forgotten and their children remind them at 9pm the night before! [Cue a desperate scramble to find a suitable container for a pinch of salt, 1/4 can of tomatoes etc and a leak-proof box big enough to house the various smaller containers. (Yes, this is from personal experience!)]
Although we had a great idea, the available work space in my kitchen was somewhat of a problem - as we’re sure it is for many households! This led to us looking for suitable spaces to rent for an afternoon. The more we thought about it, the more we looked at it from a parent’s point of view. What would make the club accessible to all? What things are important to parents to know their children are safe, well looked after, having fun and learning practical life skills? We decided to go for an Ofsted registration - to demonstrate our commitment to providing a fun, yet educational experience, whilst also giving parents the option to pay using the childcare voucher scheme, the upcoming tax-free childcare scheme, or register for the childcare element of tax credits for those eligible to claim. Although the thought of an Ofsted inspection fills many people with dread, our registration is deeply important to us, for the reassurance it provides parents that we are accountable to Ofsted and that we must comply with the conditions of registration.
As part of our registration, my daughter and I undertook extensive training, covering a full 12 hour Paediatric First Aid course, Fire Marshall course, Level 2 Food & Hygiene course, Working together to Safeguard Children course, Common core skills in Education course and Emergency First Aid at work course. We’re always on the lookout for further Professional Development opportunities, and will be continuously updating our skill-set.
Finding suitable insurance was a bit of a nightmare, not many companies were willing to insure children for cooking, but we eventually found one which suited our needs, and included public liability insurance!
Our Ofsted registration allows us to look after children aged 5 and over, and our insurance covers us for cooking with children over the age of 5, so this is why our classes are currently for children aged 5 and over.
Sourcing all the equipment, aprons and everything else we need for the club has taken months - we really wanted everything to bright, bold, cheerful and appeal to all children. We’ve found some pretty cool gadgets which the children love using, and everything is safe and easy for children to use.
So what makes us different from other cooking clubs? Well, we’ve researched it, and it appears that we’re the ONLY Ofsted registered children’s cooking club operating at weekends in the UK. Not only that, but we tie in what we’re doing with the National Curriculum for Key Stages 1&2 for Maths and Science. We also throw in a bit of English and Art too. We do fun quizzes, we play games, we give great snacks and we encourage all children to believe in themselves and their abilities. It doesn’t matter to us if a child has never used a set of scales, or a handheld whisk - we take time to show the children how to use everything, as many times as is necessary to master that skill.
Children with a little or a lot more experience are welcome to join us too, we do something different every week, so there is always something new for a child to learn. We find that the more experienced children are great at helping less experienced children along, which increases both lots of children’s self-esteem and confidence. Our favourite thing about running our sessions is seeing the quiet, sometimes shy, sometimes anxious children coming into our hall, and watching the same set of children becoming an exuberant, confident group of young people well within the space of the 3 hours.
We are passionate about treating children equally, and giving them all the same nurturing and supportive encouragement to believe in themselves and equip them with skills for life.
If you were to walk into one of our sessions, you wouldn't be able to tell which child has a Special Educational Needs or Disability, who is home-schooled or who attends a special, mainstream or public school. The children are all so busy making new friends and accomplishing some quite terrific cooking, that no background or ability matters to them. They are accepted for who they are and united by their common interest in cooking. And we feel that is exactly how it should be!