Jamila Khan, Chef

Jamila Khan, Chef in kitchen

I’m Jamila and have been a professional chef for over 10 years.

My work is not just about preparing healthy dishes for children but creatively encouraging young people to engage and get involved in all aspects of food.

My journey with Coin Street Nursery was so easy as it coincided with Chefs in Schools.

Starting a new job is always a little stressful, meeting new people and learning the ropes but I was supported by Chef trainer Nerissa. The information offered really helped me set the kitchen up the best way.

Nerissa took me under her wing and the team ensured by the end of week two I was confident and comfortable to move forward on my own. I now feel part of an amazing Chefs in Schools community. We even have a Whatsapp group!

The children really like the menus and have reacted well to what I have introduced. Nothing fazes them. The children are engaged, eager to learn about new things, including food – however, when I give them food they have not tried before (at home) they have a mixture of reactions!

It’s rewarding that they are open and willing to try. They get very excited and although they might at first have a play around with the food on their plate, when they do try it, almost all of them enjoy the different tastes and sensations. There’s never much left on the plate.

What is it about cheese? The children LOVE cheese. They are also carb fiends (just like me) and will often have adult sized portions of rice, pasta, and potatoes. Cake is gold dust and no matter what’s in it (beetroot, carrot, butternut squash) they will eat it all up!

I would say I have a really good relationship with the children, and their behaviour towards the food is inquisitive and involved.  They often come up to the kitchen window and ask me what I’m making. I get lots of offers of help to wheel the trolley and they always ask what I’ve been cooking or ‘what’s that?'. I find they are engaged with the whole process.  

I have learnt that they can eat anything! I thought their taste would be quite different to what I would cook for adults, but I have quickly learned that introducing them to proper healthy, nutrition packed food at an early age is hugely important. Often, even the young ones, have the same as me for lunch and love it!

I think providing quality food to children is one of the most important things in their development. Children need good portions and a variety of nutrients to physically grow and develop healthily.

With so many issues such as childhood obesity, food poverty, body image pressures, teaching children that food is an experience and something we need, should love, and be comfortable with, is my aim and why I enjoy my job.

As part of Healthy Eating Week, I performed some workshops with the children, and we made a really delicious and healthy vegan banana cake. The children said it was truly scrumptious! I doubt parents got anywhere near it – they were licking the bowl clean before it was even cooked.

The Coin Street Nursery has been working with Chefs in Schools since December 2020, transforming the food it serves and helping children to learn and get excited about what they’re eating.