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Danny Gill to roll out pop-up school restaurant

21 July 2017 by
Danny Gill to roll out pop-up school restaurant

Following the success of his first pop-up, chef Danny Gill is to roll out his pop-up school restaurant across Lincolnshire.

The concept works by taking a group of students out of scheduled lessons for the day and putting them in a simulated restaurant environment within the school grounds.

The first pop-up took place on 7 July at North Kesteven School in Lincolnshire, which Gill used to attend.

Gill enlisted 12 year-10 students to work with him in the kitchen, from 8am to 8pm. They served a three-course meal to 30 covers, and they chose, prepped, costed and cooked the meals themselves.

"At no point were they flagging, disinterested or bored because they were being stimulated and they were interested in what they were doing," Gill said. "They prepped chickens for roasting, filleted and pin-boned fish, made pasta, mayonnaise, tomato sauce - not one thing was brought in. One of the girls actually fainted when she picked up a chicken! We thought it was a nightmare start to the day, but she went off, had a cup of tea, came back and carried on. She turned out to be one of the best students and is coming to work as a part-time waitress with me over the summer. It was all a challenge but it was one everyone really enjoyed."

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The menu included starters of seared mackerel with an Asian coleslaw and lime mayonnaise or a pea and ham hock soup with crème fraiche; mains of traditional roast chicken or tagliatelle with tomato, basil and balsamic and goats' cheese salsa; and a dessert of elderflower drizzle cake with a variation of strawberries.

Tickets for the dinner were charged at £12.50 each. The charge was originally necessary to cover costs; however, Gill's suppliers kindly donated produce for the day. M&J Seafood donated fish, RB Wholesale donated chefs' jackets, Pilgrim Foodservice donated meat and fresh vegetables, Ritter donated the dry store and dairy, and Gill's local veg man, Johnathan Hull, donated vegetables.

Over £200 was raised at the event, which Gill has donated to local charity a Challenge for Halle-Rose, which raises money for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

The response from the first event was overwhelming for Gill and his sous chef Will Hodson. Gill said: "We didn't realise the effect it would have. The head teacher at the school was completely blown away by how the kids responded to it and we had parents come up to us to say 'I've never seen my kid as excited about something like this before.'"

He is now hoping that others will launch similar concepts. "The more people that get on board with the idea that something has to be done to get people excited about the industry the better - whether that be suppliers, restaurants or hotels.

"I've had a few chefs asking to get involved, but I'm not the one waving the flag saying 'come on, let's do this' - all I am saying to people is get in touch with a local school and go and do the same thing. The message I wanted to get out there is if we want to inspire people and get them excited about catering and hospitality as an industry, we will have to go to them, because they're not coming to us."

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At the end of the day, six of the 12 students approached Gill and asked for a part-time job in the summer.

"We have only just scratched the surface with this. I'm not saying this is the answer - I don't know the answer. But the proof's in the pudding. If half of the 12 want to get involved and are interested in catering, then there's got to be something there," Gill said.

"Being a chef is the best job in the world. You get to work with wonderful food all day. The sense of teamwork and camaraderie when you work in a restaurant is unlike anything else. People moan about working nights and weekends, but it never bothers me because your social life is in the kitchen with your co-workers. And if you enjoy it, it's not really work. You have to have a passion."

Gill cut his teeth in the industry at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Oxford under Raymond Blanc, where he remained for four years.

After a stint at the Michelin-starred Roussillon restaurant in London, he began working alongside Daniel Clifford at the two-Michelin-starred Midsummer House in Cambridge as sous chef and then became head chef of Clifford's Flitch of Bacon pub in Little Dunmow, Essex.

He now owns Brown's Pie Shop on Steep Hill in Lincoln, which his parents bought in 2005. He acquired the restaurant in April this year with a £50,000 loan from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking.

Gill also appeared on the BBC Two programme Great British Menu last year, competing against Andrew Scott of Restaurant 56 in Farringdon and Daniel Smith of the Ingham Swan in Norwich.

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