Chef Wars: Michael Gove asks LEON restaurant founders to review school dinners but Jamie Oliver slams idea

Education Secretary gives Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent a free hand to examine school meals across the country

Chef wars broke out today as Education Secretary Michael Gove put the founders of one of the country’s best-known restaurant chains in charge of a review of the school meals service.

Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent, the co-founders of the LEON restaurant chain, have been given a free hand to examine school meals across the country - and come up with a series of recommendations

However, the decision was immediately criticised by TV chef Jamie Oliver who warned Mr Gove:  “Now is not the time for more costly reports.”

At the centre of the controversy is Mr Oliver’s criticism of Mr Gove for allowing his free schools and academies to ignore national nutritional standards - introduced after Mr Oliver’s campaign to improve school meal standards in his Channel Four TV programme.

“This just delays action for another year or more,” said Mr Oliver.

“I thought it was ironic that this morning’s announcement by Mr Gove was given at a lovely school with a kitchen garden - and with a dedicated school caterer creating freshly cooked meals on site.

“This simply does not reflect the current resource and reality in most schools across the country.”

He added: “I'm fairly confident that the gentlemen from LEON will end up pushing for the same things that I, and many others, have been pushing for years but the question is:  will Mr Gove listen? Will he finally do anything about the problems in school food?”

MR Oliver has been critical of the Government’s decision to exempt its free schools and academies from national nutritional standards. In their review, Messrs Dimbleby and Vincent will be able to examine that thorny question.

The Department for Education said today that “nothing’s off limits” for the Dimbleby and Vincent review and they would be free to visit academies and come up with recommendations “however unpalatable”. (That does not mean the recommended food will be unpalatable).

While they will take on the academies part of the remit, Mr Dimbleby and Mr Vincent believe that regulation is not the only answer when it comes to improving school meals.  Take-up is still fairly low and one solution, they argue, is teaching pupils more about the preparation of healthy food to gain their interest.

The LEON restaurant chain prides itself on delivering nutritious food that tastes good, in large volume, to an agreed budget - something which will stand them in good stead as they survey school dinners.

They have 11 restaurants in London, one in Bluewater in Kent and one at Terminal Three at London’s Heathrow airport.

“Our job is to find out which schools are doing well and why,” said journalist and chef Henry Dimbleby. 

John Vincent added: “We have a mission at LEON to make it easier for everybody to eat good food.  We do it commercially with LEON and so we are energised by the chance to do so with school food.”

However, Mr Gove’s decision to set up the review - which will not report until next year - was criticised by school meal caterers and opposition MPs.

Lynda Mitchall, who chairs the Local Authority Caterers Association, said: “We’re initially slightly disappointed that he (Mr Gove) feels the need for another review.”

She said it was “slightly confusing” the the School Food Trust - set up under the previous government to monitor standards - had been sidelined by the decision.

“The big problem is half the secondary schools with 1,250,000 pupils (in academies)are without nutritional standards. Do we need someone from outside of the school society to come and look at this?”

Sharon Hodgson, Labour’s spokeswoman on children and families, added:”We don’t need another review of nutrition in schools - we already have a comprehensive sey of standards developed by experts.

“The real problem is that Michael Gove has deliberately exempted academies and free schools  ... from those standards.”

In its remit, the Department for Education says  the duo should examine which schools are doing well and how all schools could reach a standard to be proud of.  They should also build up a systematic picture of the school meals service throughout the country.

Tough nutritional styandards were introduced under the last government after a campaign from Jamie Oliver to improve the nutritional content of school dinners.

Even so, figures show take-up in just 38 per cent in secondary schools and 38 per cent in primaries.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Windows, Linux - Central London

£40000 - £48000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Windo...

Guru Careers: Product Training Specialist / Software Trainer

£25 - 32,500K (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Produ...

Recruitment Genius: Unqualified NVQ Assessors - Health, Social Care & Management

£16000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence