James Martin focuses on food in Yorkshire

A new cookery school in West Yorkshire is encouraging both adults and children to rattle their pots and pans - with a little help from celebrity chef James Martin<br/><br/>PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOAN RUSSELL

Celebrity chef James Martin leaned against the wall and smiled with some satisfaction as he watched the official opening of a new cookery school in Halifax.

He has spent 10 years working with the nationwide Focus on Food Campaign, which encourages young children to cook for themselves and teaches the importance of eating well.

This new purpose-built school at Dean Clough Mills will not only teach cookery to paying aspiring adult chefs but all its profits will go towards supporting the valuable work of the Focus on Food Campaign. The Cooking School is the inspiration of Anita Cormac, executive director of the campaign and a former secondary school teacher.

'We are all passionate about cooking and didn't want to open just another cookery school,' said Anita. 'We wanted to create a unique experience where people have a fantastic day but also take away culinary skills they can use over again and adapt to their own lifestyles.

'The icing on the cake is that every person who comes through our doors is supporting and donating to a much bigger ideal that offers crucial cooking skills to young people and adults who may otherwise never have the opportunity to show what they can do.

'The amount of support we have received from chefs across the UK has been amazing.With so many of them willing to give up their own time, their tricks of the trade and recipes, we know we are about to offer something very unique.'

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The Focus on Food Campaign teaches cooking, at no cost, to more than 40,000 children and adults every year in schools and communities across the country using mobile teaching kitchens called Cooking Buses.

James Martin, who was brought up in Yorkshire and trained as a chef at Scarborough Technical College, went on to launch a TV career and write several cookery books. At the moment he presents BBC One's Saturday Kitchen.

He was the first celebrity chef to give his time to support the campaign, working with children on the Cooking Buses, encouraging them to learn to cook for themselves. He said: 'When Anita approached me to support The Cooking School I didn't hesitate. I have always enjoyed my sessions on the Focus on Food Cooking Buses so I'm really glad to be at the beginning of this success story and to help transform people's attitudes towards food and healthy eating.'

The fleet of five cooking buses delivers teaching and teacher training to schools around the country. The campaign also produces teaching and learning material to not only more than 40,000 children but also 2,500 teachers every year.

Courses at The Cooking School will help pay for the continuing campaign work and are led by resident teaching chef Matthew Benson-Smith, who has 20 years experience as chef at Chequers and is former chef to Prime Minister John Major. He has worked as head chef at hotels and award winning restaurants across the country.

There are 22 individual cooking stations in the new school as well as top of the range equipment and utensils. As well as Matthew's courses covering everything from full day sessions, evenings or speciality courses, many other renowned chefs have agreed to give cookery demonstrations to show their support for the school. Guests at the opening represented organisations from around the county and some of them faced a cookery challenge of their own when they were asked to rustle up the ultimate omelette with James Martin as chief taster.

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