‘Delicious’, ‘Tasty’, ‘A great idea’.
These were just some of the comments made at a public tasting to launch the Our Basildon Our Food initiative, aimed at encouraging local people to eat more healthily.
Around 1,500 portions of food were served in just two hours as Saturday shoppers clamoured to try out healthy options which are now being sold in nine of the town’s restaurants and cafés.
The chefs involved in the scheme joined forces to show off their new dishes at the tasting event organised by the ‘Our Basildon’ team at the Foundation for Essex Arts.
Among the tasters passing by was a governor of Basildon Hospital, Patricia Ayres, who tried out the spicy chicken quesadillas on offer from the Market Café and Café City. She praised the scheme, saying: “It’s a really good way for people to become aware that healthy food can be very tasty and nutritious, and not fattening.”
Matthew Robarts tried both the quesadillas and the homemade tomato and basil soup. He said: “It’s really fantastic, the soup tastes really good and I really like the spicy quesadilla pancakes.”
The food outlets are offering the healthy meals at half price through an introductory offer that is being sent to thousands of local residents during the promotional period. It will run until the end of February when it will be evaluated by researchers from the University of Essex. The aim of the scheme is to encourage people to eat more healthily in an effort to cut the high levels of obesity in the town.
The other restaurants taking part include McDowell’s Pie and Mash Restaurant, Stacey’s Pie Shop, Tasty Bakes and More, Chip and Fin in the town centre and Long Riding, the Poolside Café at Gloucester Park swimming pool and Pitsea Leisure Centre Coffee Shop.
Organiser Lisa Hawker, from the Foundation for Essex Arts, said: “It was a magnificent start to the scheme, far surpassing our expectations. So many people came to try out the healthy options and the reaction was really positive.
“We now want to encourage those who receive leaflets over the coming days to use their vouchers to visit the participating restaurants and take up the half price discount on the healthier/tasty Our Basildon choice on the menu. If people miss the vouchers, most of these dishes are still subject to various in-house promotions plus there’s a chance to win a great prize with every ‘Tasty Basildon’ option purchased.”
Joining the chefs for the grand launch was Masterchef of Great Britain Mark Baumann, who runs Baumanns Brasserie in Coggeshall. Alongside a nutritionist he helped each of the restaurants devise their new dishes, which include homemade tomato and basil soup, curried fishcakes, a chicken and vegetable jacket potato filling, plus a fish and vegetable pie.
NHS South West Essex is supporting the project to address the complex issues of unhealthy eating. Healthy eating is not only about the cost of healthy food but about behaviours, lifestyle, knowledge and the choices available.
For more information on the Our Basildon project and the Heritage Trail, please see www.ourbasildon.org.
Our Basildon, Our Food is supported by NHS South West Essex, which is working to have a long term impact on healthy eating. The Our Basildon, Our Food project is designed to embed the skills and knowledge to prepare healthy meals into the community by offering training with British Masterchef Mark Baumann on how to create healthy meals, alongside nutritional advice, within the budget of businesses.
The nine businesses involved are subsidising the healthy eating options. The vouchers have no monetary value and are simply a device to encourage residents to explore the options available. The voucher can only be used on the healthy option meals, which have been developed with a nutritionist.
Photo 1 shows Patricia Ayres and Matthew Robarts trying out the healthy dishes.
Photo 2 - group photo of all those taking part in the scheme