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A Trip To The Kitchen Is Just The Therapy Many Need

Since 2019 the MFC Foundation has been working with MasterChef’ quarter-finalist Matei Baran. The aim of the course is to help people who may be struggling with their mental health, through kitchen therapy.

Although it may sound unorthodox, there is evidence that cooking, and spending quality time in the kitchen can greatly improve mental health. Through MFC Foundation‘s Kitchen Therapy courses, groups and individuals are not only developing lifetime skills but they’re also working to better their emotional wellbeing and improve self-esteem, by creating a safe and supportive environment for them to learn.

With Chef’s help each participant has learns how to make good, healthy food properly. At the end of the course the group are sometimes set a task to cook a full meal for paying customers, normally taking over the kitchen at a restaurant.

During the first and second lockdowns, the Kitchen Therapy class was put on pause, but that didn’t mean the work was halted. The community still needed help, even more so, with many feeling lonely during isolation periods. Matei and staff from the Foundation, set out to deliver specially made food packages to homes throughout East Cleveland.

Recently a Kitchen Therapy group from Lockwood went on a day trip to Newcastle to visit Chef’s Kitchen, the millennium bridge and a local farm. The trip out was a chance for the group to make small moves to start socialising again, in light of lockdown restrictions lifting.

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Community competition this Christmas

Christmas competition!

Christmas is a time to be together with loved ones, your friends, your family and I know 2020 isn’t exactly the year anyone would envisage which is why I’d LOVE to give something back to people.

If you know of a community who would benefit from a FREE #PoshStreetFood meal this Christmas, please get in touch. I’m looking to personally cook up to 50 meals to and this could include:

  • A care home;
  • NHS/Emergency services staff;
  • A community group;
  • A workplace;
  • Charities.

Food will include:

🍽 Chipolata and turkey” kebab’ Yorkshire pudding;
🍽 Bbq brisket ” kebab” Yorkshire pudding;
🍽 Cranberry slaw;
🍽 Crispy stuffing
🍽 Mushroom stuffing “kebab”.
🍽 Orange brownies dessert.

Food will be cooked from my professional outside catering setup and the date to be confirmed but likely to be end of November/early December 2020.

To nominate a community, please complete the form.

Terms & conditions:

  1. This is open to ‘groups’ based within 30 miles of Newcastle;
  2. At the end of October, I will pick a shortlist of three and these will then go to the public vote and an overall winner will be chosen on 15th November 2020;
  3. The public vote will be done through my website/social media and those who have submitted nominations, can choose to be anonymous;
  4. The winner will be the one with the most nominations via likes/shares on social media;
  5. The winner cannot exchange the prize for a cash equivalent;
  6. We will liaise with the winner and arrange a suitable date, if the winner cancels, the prize will be offered to the runner up.
  7. We reserve the right to withdraw this prize at any time.

For further details, please email

Nomination form below:

#PoshStreetFood this Christmas

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Project continues to support vulnerable adults in East Cleveland

A project to support vulnerable adults in East Cleveland is continuing despite the coronavirus lockdown.

In February television MasterChef Matei Baran and Middlesbrough Football Club Foundation launched their second Kitchen Therapy programme which uses cooking to bring together and help people who struggle with their mental health.

Kitchen Therapy has been halted, but the people it was helping – many living in isolated communities – need support more than ever.

Over the Easter weekend 80 special food packages were delivered to homes in East Cleveland by Chef Matei and Lee Harding from the Foundation.

Each package contained delicious brownies, scones and cakes baked by Matei, who was a quarter-finalist in MasterChef: The Professionals.

“It was a massive task, not only because of the number of deliveries. We also had to be absolutely certain each time that everything was done safely,” said Lee, MFC Foundation’s Boro Bus coordinator. “But it was worth it to see people’s reaction.  They loved the food, but it was also crucial to show them that they weren’t forgotten.”

The first Kitchen Therapy took place last year at Middlesbrough College. “Everybody who took part said it was life-changing,” said Chef Matei.  “When they started many couldn’t even make eye-contact. After 12 weeks they were helping me prepare and serve a tasting menu for 50 paying guests.”

The latest 12-week project was being held at the Hunley Hotel and Golf Club in Brotton. More than 20 people from East Cleveland were taking part. “After just a few sessions, you could tell what a difference it was making,” said Matei. “We didn’t want coronavirus to spoil this. It was so important to keep the connection with those taking part in Kitchen Therapy, but also support lots of other people who live in the area and might be struggling.”

The launch of the second Kitchen Therapy programme reflected the MFC’s determination to make a difference in East Cleveland, where loneliness is a major problem.

“With many people living alone, one of the reasons we’re doing this programme is just to get people out and mixing and socialising again, making new friends and learning new cooking skills and sharing those skills,” said Gary Walton, the MFC Foundation’s community engagement officer. “Obviously we can’t do that right now, but what we can do is remind people we are still here and will still support in any way we can.

“We look forward to meeting up with our new friends, and some old faces, as soon as is possible to do that. Not just here in East Cleveland, but across all our projects in the Foundation and that includes the friends we made in the first Kitchen Therapy project.”

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Win an afternoon tea for a Key Worker!

Win an afternoon tea for a Key Worker!

Key Workers are doing a fantastic job and we’d like to reward 100 of them by personally delivering an afternoon tea for FREE!

The afternoon tea will be packed with lots of sweet & savoury items including scones, sandwiches wraps, brownies & cheesecake, all served with clotted cream and jam.

All you need to do is nominate one or several Key Workers that you know by tagging them in the comments on our pinned Facebook post. We’ll then pick 100 people at random and deliver them an afternoon tea.

Terms & Conditions

  1. They person(s) nominated MUST be able to take in a delivery within 10 miles of our Big Chef Mini Chef Coffee Shop which is located at Stepney Bank Stables, Gateshead, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 2NP
  2. They must be classed as a Key Worker.
  3. Nominations can be made by tagging the key worker on our Facebook post, message via Facebook or through our other social media channels i.e. Twitter & Instagram.
  4. The lucky recipients will be contacted and asked to provide their address (this must be a delivery address within 10 miles of NE1 2NP).
  5. The recipients will be chosen between 15th April to 22nd April.
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Newcastle children’s charity and TV chef announce new partnership

The Stepney Banks Stables charity – England’s first inner city riding school for children – has teamed up with a TV chef in an exciting new partnership to promote a healthy lifestyle.

The Big Chef Mini Chef Coffee Shop at the Stables will provide free cooking masterclasses for children and parents and also offer work experience for young budding cooks.

The coffee shop will be run by Master Chef quarter finalist Matei Baran who, as well as delivering healthy eating projects, will be dishing up a tasty menu for visitors to the stables.

Matei has brought with him personal trainer Ryan Conwell and Jasmine Dawes, a Thai yoga massage therapist and mindfulness mentor, who have helped him improve his physical and mental health. In the past year the 42-year-old chef has lost more than 11 stones. Ryan and Jasmine will provide free weekly sessions for people of all ages in the Stepney Banks Stables gym.

“We are dedicated to offering an holistic approach to combine the benefits of exercise and healthy eating,” said the stables’ manager Denise Wilson. “We have had plans to develop a community-based project for some time and are delighted to support and work alongside Matei, whose project supports our charitable objectives.”

Last summer Matei held a number of cooking sessions at the stables where his son – and Mini Chef – rides. The success of those workshops inspired the new partnership. “It’s really important that the younger children have a chance to cook and learn about healthy options, so this will be ideal. The ethos of what Matei’s doing is brilliant,” said Denise.

Matei’s approach complements the aims of the highly successful Stepney Banks Stables charity which helps young people become more confident and resilient by riding and caring for horses. Over the last 25 years that experience has helped thousands develop their social skills and – through becoming a volunteer – improve their job prospects. The stables are home to 23 horses and 15 full-time and part-time members of staff work there.  They deliver 400 riding lessons a week for eight to 18-year-olds and adults.

In the Big Chef Mini Chef Coffee Shop Matei will be running a hands-on breakfast club for children as well as cooking workshops where they will discover how to prepare a special dish.

Parents will be invited to learn about preparing healthy breakfasts followed by sessions with Ryan and Jasmine.

Matei is also providing work experience for Mini Chefs, such as 15-year-old Ben Halliburton from Cramlington, who is due to start his Level 2 in Professional Cookery at Gateshead College in September.

“He found it a challenge – as any 15-year-old starting work would – but he really enjoyed it,” said Ben’s mum Nicola. “The opportunity’s been amazing and he found Matei an inspiration.”

As well as a successful career in kitchens at some of the North East’s top hotels and restaurants, Matei has been determined to help people through cooking. He has published a recipe book for children called Big Chef Mini Chef.  His inspiration was his son Armin who suffers from cystic fibrosis.  Last year he launched Kitchen Therapy, a project with Middlesbrough Football Club’s Foundation, to help a group of adults improve their self-esteem by learning and working together. The second project has just started.

He has also been helping students at the Haskel School, an independent Jewish special school in Gateshead, to learn to cook. He has proved so popular that the students volunteered to help decorate The Big Chef Mini Chef Coffee Shop.

“I have found so much enjoyment and a sense of achievement through cooking that I want to share it with as many people as possible,” said Matei. “I have made my home in the North East but I see so many things here I would like to help change, for example obesity and bad eating habits.

“I liked my food and sugar drinks – too much – and became dangerously overweight. Not only does that affect your physical health it also damages your self-esteem.   It was a painful lesson but I have changed, through practising what I preach about healthy eating and exercising. If I can do that anybody can.”

He added: “I am so excited about the Big Chef Mini Chef Coffee Shop. The Stepney Banks Stables is a fantastic charity and I hope together we can continue to make a difference.”