Hackney School of Food

Welcome to our state-of-the-art cooking hub in Hackney! At the Hackney School of Food, children enjoy a seed to spoon food education. Outside there are vegetable beds, orchards, soft fruit areas and a greenhouse, inside there is a purpose-built cookery classroom. At the school, we teach kids to grow fruit and vegetables, tend beehives, cook over fire and turn produce into meals.

It provides food education to the LEAP Federation schools, lessons to pupils from across London and free cooking classes to the local community. It also functions as a training hub for school chefs.

The kitchen can be used comfortably by five-year-old children as well adults, with height-adjustable cooking and washing stations.

By offering paid classes to businesses, corporates, families and friends we are able to offer free classes to the community. Money raised by the school supports food education in the area and our work in school food.

The Hackney School of Food opened in 2020 – it is a collaboration between us and LEAP Federation – an academy trust made of three state schools in Hackney.

The architects – Surman Weston – transformed an old building and area of land into a food education hub.

Photo by Jim Stephenson

The idea for a food oasis in inner-city London came from our co-founders – Nicole Pisani and Louise Nichols. Within the space of a year, they’d turned their idea into a reality.

Nicole Pisani, our co-founder and Executive Chef, says: “The School of Food is a wonderful space for children to learn, for the community to come together to cook and for us to train the school kitchen teams of the future. The building and grounds are beautiful and perfect for celebrating food, cooking and produce. We hope many schools and private groups will sign up for our courses and come along to experience what the school has to offer. It truly is a special place to get people – young and old – excited about growing and eating good food.”

Louise Nichols, Executive Headteacher, Mandeville, Gayhurst and Kingsmead Primary Schools, said: “Building the School of Food from scratch has been a rewarding collaboration between the educators, the chefs, the gardeners and architects. It’s not been without its challenges: from raising funds, sharing the vision and launching a project of this nature at the same time as a world pandemic. But the glorious outcome is incredibly gratifying for all concerned, the gardens were mud-heaped, covered in brambles, a dumping ground for old footballs and inhabited by foxes not so long ago, and they’ve blossomed into a productive oasis and a site for children to learn all about food.”

Project data

Start on site July 2019
Completion February 2020
Gross internal floor area 59m²
Construction cost £307,000
Architect Surman Weston
Client LEAP Federation & Chefs in Schools
Structural engineer Structure Workshop
M&E consultant Peter Deer and Associates
CDM co-ordinator Surman Weston
Main contractor Modernarc
CAD software used AutoCAD
Annual CO2 emissions 14kgCO2/m²
Predicted percentage improvement in annual CO2 emissions 85%
Landscape consultant Lidia D’agostino
Graphic design Jean Jullien