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Former Ottolenghi chef puts on pop-up at school she gave it all up for

PUBLISHED: 16:14 30 March 2015 | UPDATED: 16:14 30 March 2015

Pop-up benefit gala dinner at Gayhurst Community School in Hackney with head chef Nocole Pisani and a dedicated team of friends and colleagues. Photo Kristian Buus

Pop-up benefit gala dinner at Gayhurst Community School in Hackney with head chef Nocole Pisani and a dedicated team of friends and colleagues. Photo Kristian Buus

Kristian Buus

A chef who made her name in Yotam Ottolenghi’s Soho restaurant called on former colleagues to set up a special pop-up restaurant to raise £3,000 at the Hackney school she jacked it all in to work at.

Pop-up benefit gala dinner at Gayhurst Community School in Hackney with head chef Nocole Pisani and a dedicated team of friends and colleagues. Photo Kristian BuusPop-up benefit gala dinner at Gayhurst Community School in Hackney with head chef Nocole Pisani and a dedicated team of friends and colleagues. Photo Kristian Buus

Nicole Pisani quit her job as head chef at one of London’s most chic restaurants, Nopi, in January, to serve up lunch for 500 pupils at Gayhurst Community School.

On Friday last week the state primary school in Gayhurst Road, London Fields, was transformed into a swanky eatery where Nicole and her team whipped up an impressive meal with dishes including mussels, seaweed broth and fennel pollen, and dover sole, preserved lemon, thyme and artichokes.

The money raised at the sell-out event will go to school improvements like upgrading the school’s kitchen equipment, getting a kitchen garden set up, and buying new tools for children’s cookery classes.

Ms Pisani made her name cooking sumptuous Middle Eastern and Asian-inspired dishes, such as tea-smoked lamb cutlet with jalapeno salsa and miso aubergine, and lemon sole with burnt butter, ginger and nori which would set diners back in excess of £20.

Pop-up benefit gala dinner at Gayhurst Community School in Hackney with head chef Nicole Pisani and a dedicated team of friends and colleagues. Photo Kristian BuusPop-up benefit gala dinner at Gayhurst Community School in Hackney with head chef Nicole Pisani and a dedicated team of friends and colleagues. Photo Kristian Buus

But exhausted by the long weeks during which she could work up to 80 hours, she responded to a tweet from Henry Dimbleby, co-founder of restaurant chain Leon, asking if anyone was interested in working at his son’s school because the chef had left.

Now Ms Pisani must rise to the challenge of preparing lunch for 500 pupils with a budget of 92pence per child.

Head teacher Louise Nichols said: “Thank you so much to Nicole and her former colleagues who gave their time so generously to help raise money.”


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