Although outwardly unassuming, Lewes’s Phoenix Trading Estate is a mine of activity.
Located along the west bank of the River Ouse, the former site of the town ironworks now houses everything from artists’ studios to design companies.
Its most recent addition is Lewes Community Kitchen, a social enterprise that equips people of all ages and backgrounds with cooking skills.
Founded by community chef Robin Van Creveld – who has taught hundreds of Sussex residents how to bake bread and has tutored care home workers, school catering managers and the fire service in making nutritious meals on tight budgets – the school builds on Van Creveld’s belief that good food is a fundamental human right.
With donations of time, labour and goods from the community, a derelict warehouse has been transformed into a fully-equipped kitchen where people can come to learn a range of skills.
Upcoming courses include making festive breads and patisserie, baking sourdough, cooking with raw chocolate and wheat-free cookery.
Van Creveld has also begun sowing the seeds for a “micro-bakery” at the Community Kitchen, where groups are encouraged to bake bread to distribute locally as a cheaper and more community-minded alternative to mass- produced food.
Interested parties might form a co-operative, taking it in turns to bake for other members, or bake bread to sell at a low price within their communities.
He will pilot a similar scheme at the Brighton Aldridge Community Academy in Falmer in the New Year.
“Cooking and eating together is a simple way of connecting with other people,” he says. “It helps individuals, families and communities to be healthier, more connected and in tune with the natural rhythms of life.
“It helps us to feel confident about who we are and gives us the chance to express ourselves creatively while doing something deeply practical with edible results.”
For more information about the courses available in Lewes and Brighton, or about the Community Chef, visit www.communitychef.org.uk