He's the hero of the school dinners revolution. And he's 'bloody furious' with Jamie

Why? Because David Lucas, the chef Ruth Kelly has tasked with improving food in schools, says he's been denied his just deserts for his role in 'Jamie's School Dinners'
Click to follow
The Independent Online

He is a classically trained chef whose healthy school meals have been credited with transforming the behaviour of pupils and improving their GCSE results. The Secretary of State for Education, Ruth Kelly, is so delighted with his work that she has appointed him to the Government's new School Meals Review Panel.

He is a classically trained chef whose healthy school meals have been credited with transforming the behaviour of pupils and improving their GCSE results. The Secretary of State for Education, Ruth Kelly, is so delighted with his work that she has appointed him to the Government's new School Meals Review Panel.

But the chef in question is not Jamie Oliver. He is David Lucas, the 48-year-old head chef at Icknield High School in Luton. And Mr Lucas is "bloody furious" because he has not received the credit he believes he deserves for his role in the school meals revolution. He claims that he was promised a fee for assisting in the research for Oliver's television series on school meals, Jamie's School Dinners, which aired on Channel 4 earlier this year.

Mr Lucas, who trained for four years at the Savoy in London and has worked in the kitchens at a series of high-class establishments across the capital, is renowned in the education sector for pioneering healthy school meals. He took over the kitchens at Icknield school four years ago and immediately changed the menus, getting rid of fatty, processed food and replacing it with healthy, freshly cooked meals.

The school's exam results have improved every year since the changes, and last year it achieved the best GCSE results in Luton. The school's head, Chris Dean, credits the change in menus as a major factor in the improved results.

Researchers for Jamie's School Dinners met Mr Lucas at his school in September 2003. They spent two days discussing his menus and ideas. Mr Lucas claims he was offered a consultancy fee and a credit on the series.

"I'm bloody furious," said Mr Lucas. "I can accept they wanted a household name fronting the show but I thought I would be involved. They said I would be involved and credited, and would be paid for the work I had put in."

Channel 4 strongly denied Mr Lucas's claims. A spokesman for the station said: "Researchers met David Lucas quite close to the beginning of the research process, after the programme had been commissioned. He was one of 300 people they spoke to. There is absolutely no way they suggested they would credit him or give him any fee.

"Obviously, the reason David Lucas was contacted was because he had already done fantastic work in improving school dinners and we respect that. Jamie has never claimed he is the first person to point out there is a problem with school dinners."

In Jamie's School Dinners, Oliver transformed the lunch menus at a series of schools in Greenwich, south London, replacing processed burgers, chips and the infamous Turkey Twizzlers with fresh, healthy food cooked in the kitchen. Following the success of the series, Oliver presented a petition of nearly 300,000 signatures to Tony Blair, calling for healthy school meals, a ban on junk food and an increase in the amount spent on each pupil's meal.

Mr Lucas was last week appointed to the School Meals Review Panel, which is to establish nutritional standards for schools. A spokeswoman for the Department for Education and Skills said: "David Lucas has an excellent track record in improving school meals, and his experience in delivering high nutritional standards in a school environment will make an excellent contribution to the work of the panel."

Comments