The Aylesbury chef inspiring young people

Hartwell House chef Daniel Richardson & apprentice Charlie Agger
Hartwell House chef Daniel Richardson & apprentice Charlie Agger
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He is trying to educate children about healthy eating and has helped turn around the lives of hundreds of teenagers.

Yet in a world of campaigning celebrity chefs Hartwell House’s Daniel Richardson is unusual because he does not seek any recognition.

Hartwell House chef Daniel Richardson & apprentice Charlie Agger

Hartwell House chef Daniel Richardson & apprentice Charlie Agger

For the past four years the Aylesbury 40-year-old has invited schools across the county to send pupils to his working kitchen (which produces 600 meals a week) for work experience.

The hardest-working 14-18 year olds are then invited back to volunteer at the kitchen and work alongside his team of eight chefs – which counts towards a Duke Of Edinburgh award.

“I just like working with the youngsters,” said Hartwell’s modest head chef – who stresses that his kitchen has ‘a fairly happy atmosphere and is not like Gordon Ramsey’s Hell’s Kitchen’.

“All I am looking for is that they are interested in doing it.

I would never say no to anyone that wants to do it, but they need to be interested in food.

“Parents have sent me letters saying that their kids have become more disciplined. And they learn communication and people skills for life and it keeps them occupied.”

The father of six, who regularly works 9am-3.30pm and 6-10.30pm each day and praises his wife for being ‘very supportive’, has also helped design a diploma in catering and hospitality.

He is currently involved with the Academy of Culinary Arts’ adopt a school programme, where in the autumn he will work with pupils at Aylesbury’s Pebble Brook special school.

The head chef worries that in general teenagers no longer leave school with the life skills to cook fresh, healthy meals – noting that in a supermarket he recently heard a dad tell his children standing in the frozen food aisle that carrots only come in tins.

He says some of the work experience pupils that he sees have not tasted very much fresh food before and part of his aim is to improve awareness of healthy eating across the county.

Daniel also judges the Bucks heats of the annual Rotary Chef and Future Chef competitions, where Aylesbury’s Sophie Copping won the national final last year in the latter competition.

“We have had kids who have practised for three years in my kitchen before they win it,” he said.

The chef is also on a mission to get Aylesbury duck back on restaurant menus, as it currently is at Hartwell House.

“The meat is dark and and rich and its quite a fatty duck and takes a lot of skill by the chef.

“It is different to cook than other ducks but people enjoy it,” he said.

For more details visit Hartwell House’s website