A CHEF working in a Darlington service for people with learning disabilities is putting his skills to good use by teaching service users how to cook healthy meals and work towards a qualification.

Karl Mellor, the chef at Hollyhurst, a specialist independent hospital in Darlington, has developed cooking classes to help students learn skills that will give them greater independence.

The students decide each week which healthy meal they want to cook and work with Mr Mellor to buy the correct ingredients, prepare the meal, then present and enjoy it.

So far the fruits of their labour have included a Thai green chicken curry with lemon scented rice, beef chasseur and lasagne with roasted root vegetables.

Mr Mellor said: “Everyone at the service has a role to play in helping people gain and develop skills and enjoy activities, which can lead to greater independence. The people in the cooking group wanted to learn more specific skills around cooking and be really active in the kitchen. They asked if I would help and I was pleased to.

“While the focus is very much on healthy eating and food preparation, we hope that the work the group have been doing will lead to a food hygiene qualification in the long-term.”

The sessions have proved very successful and the aim is to extend them so more service users can take part in different classes throughout the week.