Garden Suburb cookery school inspires with French and African cuisine

Fabienne Viner-Luzzato and Jo Leslie-Briggs with their book Steamer the Cooking Wizard and recipes a

Fabienne Viner-Luzzato and Jo Leslie-Briggs with their book Steamer the Cooking Wizard and recipes apricot adn cherry tart and yoghurt cake - Credit: Archant

Fabienne Viner-Luzzato tells Bridget Galton about her new brand of healthy kitchen wizardry.

Teaching children how to cook is the most rewarding job Fabienne Viner-Luzzato can think of.

The Hampstead Garden Suburb resident quit her job in HR to start a catering company 10 years ago after a friend asked her to cook for a dinner party.

Then, as clients asked her to teach them and their children a few dishes, her catering company Home Cooking by Fabienne, morphed into more of a cookery school.

Paris born and half Tunisian, with a Sephardic Jewish background, Fabienne’s cooking combines north African inspired dishes with classic French cuisine.

“Food has always been a big part of my life, I come from a family of seven children and I learned with my mother,” says the mum-of-three, who moved to the UK 30 years ago.

“I love teaching children and I have noticed by teaching kids to prepare a meal they enjoy eating it more and try food they might otherwise not eat.

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“At February half term I taught 12-year-olds how to cook fish and chips from scratch. One girl hadn’t eaten fish since she was two-years old and her mother was almost crying that she had made and eaten this dish.”

Now she has teamed up with old friend and PR consultant Jo Leslie-Briggs to create a children’s storybook with recipes that encourage youngsters to don an apron and grab a rolling pin.

Illustrated by the women’s 11-year-olds Yael and Jemima, Steamer The Cooking Wizard is self-produced after publishers failed to, ahem, bite.

It’s made up of six short stories told by cooking wizard Salvatore Steamarolli, each followed by a pair of recipes that children can make with their parents including yoghurt cake, chicken schnitzel and fish goujons with a nutty crust.

Buried in each magical tale are healthy eating messages; information about vitamins and minerals, the perils of eating too much junk food, the kinds of food good for brains, and warnings about what goes into highly processed foods.

“In my head was a book of short stories with some recipes to grab people’s attention and this man coming in with a magical twist,” says Fabienne.

“We want to help parents and children understand why they have to cook and eat better, promoting home made cooking and good food without being pretentious,

“It’s about how you can eat chocolate and sugar but the story on chocolate explains where the cocoa beans come from and the magic of turning them into a chocolate bar.

“Fishfingers are ok but try proper fish goujons and understand the difference in taste.”

Fabienne, who also teaches cookery at JW3 is glad that cooking is back on the primary curriculum and wants to offer school cooking days like the one she ran at her children’s school Brookland in Hampstead Garden Suburb last term with 270 children.

“We did fresh pasta with home made pasta and sauce, three different kinds of pancakes, and chocolate lollies and a quite adventurous dish called shakshuka.

“I was pretty tired at the end of the day but when they discover they can make their own chocolate or pasta it’s magical.

“It just shows that when you are willing to spend some time with children to let them cook, see the whole process of the thing being made, it’s amazing to see them open themselves to try new, adventurous and healthy food.”

She hopes the book will help counter that age-old parenting problem of fussy eating.

“I am lucky that my children eat a lot of different foods and are prepared to try foods that they aren’t sure about. Some parents say ‘she doesn’t like that’ and don’t bother asking her three months later to try it again, perhaps mixing it with something they do like.”

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