What does it take to keep cooking skills alive?

Jamie’s Ministry of Food knows the answer, having taught over 5,000 Leeds residents to cook in the past 10 years.

Based in Leeds Kirkgate Market, Jamie’s Ministry of Food Leeds is a long term project which provides the teaching of basic cooking skills in a friendly environment. That’s not all, though, because healthy eating advice is provided, as well as shopping and budgeting tips.

Imagine using 16,530 eggs, squeezing 13,240 lemons and opening 13,770 cans of tomatoes. 990 kilos of sustainable fish from the market’s traders have also seen their way into the kitchen. Those numbers have taken 10 years, producing pizzas, roast dinners and other tasty dishes.

What do people think?

The University of Leeds evaluated the project, the results of which were published in the Public Health Nutrition Journal. The outcome? Well, people attending the 8 week course gained skills and confidence necessary to cook from scratch, as well as how to enjoy eating healthily.

Service Manager Matthew Newsome said: “Here at the food centre we see people of all ages and backgrounds coming together to cook and eat, but also making friends, overcoming difficulties and finding the confidence to make other changes in their lives. It’s a fun and friendly centre and we offer something for everyone whether they are a complete beginner or just looking for some new ideas to feed the family”.

It is significant that Leeds City Council has seen fit to continue their investment in the project, even as the pressure on finance increases.

Emma Strachan, Public Health Improvement Specialist:

“Every year the results show significant improvements in key health indicators and we have individual case studies which show participants are benefiting from weight loss, healthier lifestyles and increased confidence. I really am very proud to have been involved in this amazing project for the last 10 years, to see the service grow and change and most importantly to serve the different communities across Leeds. For me, MoF Leeds is a project that showcases our City’s priorities in action, by supporting the development of a healthier and more equal City for all.”

Councillor Rebecca Charlwood:

“A key public health priority for the Council is to help people lead a healthy lifestyle. Funding Ministry of Food Leeds helps to make this a reality. With dedicated and highly trained staff in an attractive city centre site, we have been able to showcase how easy it is to eat healthily – on a budget – with the fantastic variety of produce that is available at Leeds Kirkgate Market.”

Rosanna Bluett, Food Education Manager at Jamie Oliver:

‘’We are immensely proud of the Ministry of Food project in Leeds. It is through fantastic local partnerships like this that we can grow and expand the Ministry of Food programme to help more communities. The project staff and volunteers have delivered the programme to the highest quality and really transformed the lives of so many in the City through learning to cook over the past 10 years. Now more than ever learning to cook and eating healthily is of the utmost importance and we look forward to working with the team in Leeds and seeing the impact of the project grow in the future.’’ 

Operated by local charity Zest Leeds, Ministry of Food Leeds is a project funded by Leeds City Council and now forms the Cook Well element of the city’s One You Leeds project managed by Reed Wellbeing. 

Christine Lunn, Partnership Manager from Reed Wellbeing:

‘’We have had the pleasure of nearly 3 years now of working in collaboration with Zest, Leeds City Council and Jamie Oliver Group to deliver the Ministry of Food programme to people in Leeds. Forming part of One You Leeds Integrated Healthy Living Service, it is a hugely valuable, fun and practical part of that service. Our participants regularly share life changing stories following the courses, so it is no surprise to us that it has reached 10 years and we are proud to have joined the journey!”


Zest is a Leeds charity addressing health inequalities and social isolation through activities which improve physical, mental, social, emotional and economic wellbeing. Zest work collectively and collaboratively with some of the most deprived communities in the city where social inequalities are greatest, to promote healthier lifestyles and enable fulfilling lives.

Photograph is of Simon Chappelow, who has been working with Ministry of Food since it started 10 years ago.

Leeds Living