Marcus Rashford teams up with chef Tom Kerridge to get young people cooking

Patrick Butler Social policy editor
·4 min read
<span>Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

First he forced Boris Johnson into a U-turn over his refusal to provide holiday support to children on free school meals. Then he set about encouraging kids to read. Now, Marcus Rashford is determined to get young people cooking.

The Manchester United footballer and anti-poverty activist has teamed up with the Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge to launch Full Time – a series of five-minute “how-to” films featuring the duo that aim to inspire cash- and time-poor families to cook cheap, healthy and filling meals.

As part of Rashford’s food-poverty campaign, the pair want to provide a simple guide to making food go further on a budget, while hopefully renewing cookery skills that have declined in the age of Deliveroo, chicken shops and the £1 pizza.

The Manchester United and England striker has not abandoned his longer-term mission of tackling poverty – he supports a legal right to food in the UK, and expects ministers will not scrap the £20 universal credit top-up in the autumn: “I just don’t think the public would allow it to happen.”

Meanwhile, he sees Full Time as a key part of his quest – born of his own childhood experiences – to equip children from low-income families with life skills they might otherwise, like him, miss out on. He is now, aged 23, discovering the pleasures of the kitchen, he says. “It turns out it’s quite fun.”

The 52 Full Time recipes were chosen for being filling, nutritious and “pocket friendly” with easily available ingredients. Each recipe costs between 25p and £1 a portion, says Kerridge. Few kitchen appliances are needed: no scales; a single pan or microwave will do for most recipes; and one recipe can be prepared in a kettle.

The Full Time menu – a different recipe will be released on Instagram each Sunday morning over the next year – includes familiar favourites such as chicken stir fry, broccoli and cauliflower cheese, and fish pie jackets. The objective was to remove the “fear factor”, says Kerridge. “There’s nothing ‘out there’, crazy or wild.”

It’s a far cry from the sophisticated culinary fare with which Kerridge made his name. A three-course meal à la carte at his Michelin-starred gastro pub the Hand and Flowers in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, will set you back about £100 a head; a side order of chips costs £7, while the cheapest bottle of house wine is £38.

Full Time is not for his “usual foodie audience”, says Kerridge: “It isn’t [about] making tagines or braising beef brisket.” In some ways he has come full circle. Like Rashford, he was on free school meals as a kid. Brought up by his mother on a series of Gloucester council estates, he had to learn basic cooking as a teenager.

The Full Time menu includes a fish finger sandwich, a version of which he first prepared aged 14. His mum was out at her second job, and Kerridge had instructions to make evening dinner for his younger brother.

A risk of budget-cookery projects is that they can be lauded as the sole answer to poverty and hunger. Some years ago, the Conservative peer Lady Jenkin claimed that people went to food banks because they lacked cooking skills (she later apologised). She had worked out that a large bowl of porridge would set you back just 4p. The problem was not lack of money, she argued, more that “poor people do not know how to cook”.

Others deny food poverty exists at all in modern-day Britain. This clearly strains the well-honed diplomatic skills of the England striker. He’d suggest they do more research, perhaps “go and meet the families, meet the kids, let the kids speak to you … when you hear what they do every day, then you’ll understand the situation they are in”.

Estimates by the Food Foundation suggest 2.3 million children were food insecure at some point during the first few months of the pandemic, meaning they went hungry or struggled to eat healthily. Low-income families also face a poverty premium, spending a far bigger chunk of their income to eat healthily than affluent families.

Rashford admits he had done little cooking – he had not even peeled a carrot – before his Full Time sessions with Kerridge. His new teacher says he’s making good progress. The footballer’s meticulously chopped carrots show a rare attention to detail, says Kerridge.

“If football goes to pot, Marcus definitely has a job working with us.”