MFC Foundation and Master Chef provide help and hope

Middlesbrough Football Club Foundation has teamed up with a TV Master Chef to provide help and hope for people of all ages who live in East Cleveland.

In a partnership with Age UK Teesside they are cooking and delivering 100 healthy meals a month to people who might otherwise not eat properly or see anybody.

For a group of teenagers chef Matei Baran is also delivering a series of cooking master classes which – for one student in particular – will help him achieve his dream of becoming a professional chef.

Chef Matei and MFC Foundation joined forces two years ago to launch Kitchen Therapy which initially helped long-term unemployed people learn fresh skills, re-discover their self-confidence and – in a number of cases – help them secure new jobs.

The second Kitchen Therapy programme started in East Cleveland at the beginning of 2020 but had to stop because of the pandemic.

It has now been re-launched in a new format which will see the chef and MFC Foundation work with vulnerable members of the community as well as students at the KTS Academy in Brotton.

“It’s vital.  It’s building their independent living skills as well as working safely with equipment around the kitchen – and they really enjoy it as well,” said Sam Smith, a Special Educational Needs teacher at the school.

“During lockdown we had lots of students at home, so when they’re coming back it’s trying to build up their routine again, as well as the skills they need which they might have lost a bit.”

Nineteen-year-old KTS student Liam Kellett from Brotton has been cooking for more than 10 years.  He uses ingredients from his family’s garden and has learned from his parents who are both good cooks.

KTS student Liam Kellett and Master Chef Matei Baran

KTS student Liam Kellett and Master Chef Matei Baran

“We’ve had the pleasure of tasting many of the things they’ve made at home. Liam’s absolutely fantastic.  His cooking’s good…really good,” said his teacher.

Half of Liam’s classmates are planning to go on to further education when they leave the school later this year.  Liam – who before the pandemic worked part-time in the kitchen at The James Cook Hospital – is going to study catering at Middlesbrough College and hopes to become a chef on a cruise ship.

His kitchen hero is celebrity chef Galton Blackiston but Chef Matei is already making a good impression. He told Liam and his fellow students that the main ingredients of cooking were “passion, love and care”.

MFC Foundation opened an office in Loftus in September 2019 to help its team engage with communities in East Cleveland.

When the pandemic struck it became a lifeline, delivering hundreds of Chef Matei’s meals to schools, care homes, key workers, hospitals, GP practices and pharmacies.

That work is continuing in support of Age UK Teesside’s clients. Marie Kerr from the charity said: “A lot of them feel invisible and alone.  It’s made them feel special because it shows somebody cares.

“The chef’s meals have provided something healthy and filling and helped to break the monotony so there’s something to look forward to.”

Charlie Bell of MFC Foundation, who has organised the deliveries, said: “A lot of the people we’re delivering to don’t see anybody from week to week.  We’re turning up with meals and they’re so, so grateful.  The standard of food is also great.

“When we moved into a new office in Loftus, we said at the time we were there to make a difference, to inspire confidence and inspire hope and that’s what we’re doing with this great relationship we have with Chef Matei. He has helped us keep our promise.”

Chef Matei moved to the UK from Romania in 2009, trained to be a chef at Newcastle College and in 2016 – after working for some of the best-known hotels and restaurants in the North East – entered MasterChef: the Professionals and reached the quarter final.

“I’m very proud of Kitchen Therapy and the support we’re providing for so many people. The Foundation does many good things and I don’t think it gets the credit it deserves,” said Matei. “We’ve all been through a really tough time and I want to do all I can to make a difference – whether that’s teaching young people how to cook or making meals to help older people stay healthy.”