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Reading College students use intriguing ingredients to cook the town’s favourite free lunch

01 October 2019

A group of 30 Reading College hospitality and catering students cooked up a storm in damp weather conditions at this year’s Reading Town Meal.
This is the 7th year that the Activate Learning college has been involved in the ‘picnic in the park’ free food event.


Healthy, delicious dishes

On the menu was an organic garden salad, focaccia, vegetable ragu and a mixed fruit crumble. All the dishes were vegetarian and made from seasonal produce donated by keen growers and allotment holders from around the town.

The Reading College students gave up their Saturday to cook and serve over 500 people the free, delicious food in Forbury Gardens on Saturday 29 September.

Exciting new ingredients

Some of the fantastic ingredients used included tomatillos, balsam apples - small, bitter, pointed fruits - and small water-melon shaped cucumbers called cucamelons.

The latest culinary techniques from Heston Blumenthal

The use of innovative ingredients forms part of Activate Learning’s exciting new catering programmes. Developed in partnership with Heston Blumenthal and The Fat Duck Group, the courses teach students the latest culinary skills.

The newly designed curriculum builds on the cooking techniques made famous by Heston, and sees students taking a more experimental and scientific approach in order to develop their curiosity and promote research into all methods of food production.
The students involved in the town meal are among some of the first learners to take up the new courses.

Learning on the job

Mark Allsop, a professional cookery lecturer and the college’s lead on this volunteering project, described catering the Reading Town Meal as “a real baptism of fire”. He added: “It is brilliant because it addresses one of the first skills that the students need to use, which is vegetable cuts. For an event, it fits in really well with the students’ learning.”

Student James Newman said: “It was very much a test of endurance to cut up all that veg, but in the end it was all worth it.”
Classmate Landis Tubby added: “It was really successful. It got people to know more about Reading College and to come down and experience new food. A lot of people came despite it being a bit rainy.”
Budding Hestons can study the new culinary courses for curious cooks at Activate Learning’s Reading, City of Oxford and Banbury and Bicester colleges.