The Duchess of Cornwall enjoyed a cookery lesson with some local school children at the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show – and also got some green-fingered inspiration from a surprising source.
Olivier Blanc with the Duchess of Cornwall and children from East Sheen primary school at the Henri Le Worm community garden
Sharing her husband's passion for gardening she is used to the odd invertebrate - yet Henri Le Worm is no ordinary soil-churner. His culinary tastes are inspired by celebrated chef Raymond Blanc, his garden plot adventures are narrated by actor Simon Pegg, and his animated home - brought to life at the flower show and sponsored by Fenwick Kingston - has just won a bronze medal.
“I’m hoping the Duchess will introduce Prince George to Henri,” said Blanc's son Olivier, who guided her through his father's gazpacho recipe. “She is very interested in promoting the younger generation through nature – encouraging good food to be the heart of the home - and we have a similar outlook on this.”
Two children from East Sheen primary school making gazpacho with the Duchess of Cornwall
Henri is the animated co-creation of Olivier and actress and illustrator Charlotte Salt, who stars in an interactive app and website designed to encourage children to embrace cooking, get out in the garden, grow their own ingredients and have fun.
Olivier, who attended Summer Fields prep school with Camilla’s son Tom Parker-Bowles and says he visited their home several times as a child, is an ambassador of the charity, Love British Food, and caught up with the Duchess at an event last year.
Like his father, who grew up in a rural region of France picking all of the fruit and vegetables for his mother to cook, Olivier too was encouraged to get outside as a child.
Henri Le Worm enjoying the sunshine at RHS Hampton Court Flower Show
“I used to be fascinated by exploring the garden as a boy,” Olivier says. “It would let my imagination fly. It’s great for kids to be outside. There is a sense of fear in society today of not letting your children out of your sight – not letting them play conkers or climb trees - but going outside feeds their imagination and their confidence. It generates knowledge about the environment. Children are becoming more disconnected from the environment – they are amazed that chicken comes from a live animal with wings and not in a box.”
The garden was project managed by ex-Blue Peter gardener and horticulturalist Chris Collins. It boasts a kitchen garden, a bee house and a chicken coup, as well as Henri’s own shed, which has an edible roof featuring salad leaves, oriental mustards and herbs.
In the centre, beneath a three-metre wicker sculpture of Henri, Raymond kicked off the event showing how to make a rainbow salad (one of the ten recipes created by the chef that features on the app), gazpacho and a medley of summer fruits featuring raspberry and strawberry sauce which, like the primary ingredients, are all home grown.
“I come from a food aristocracy family,” Olivier explains. “I was packed away to boarding school at seven, I didn’t benefit from my father’s food. He was cooking all day so my mother would cook for me. She is English and a great cook. But at school I was served by people who hated children and food but [unlike many children] I benefited from coming from a family who love food - I have gone to some great restaurants and grown up in a household passionate about produce.”
Greg Hughes, managing director of Fenwick Kingston, explained that it is a project close to the store's heart. “We were keen to support the garden as we feel a real synergy with the project," he explains. "We are passionate about working with the community - we offer children's cookery schools each holiday in our state-of-the-art Living Kitchen - and explaining the role nature plays in food production is so pivotal in children’s learning. We are excited to be working with Henri Le Worm and this bronze-award-winning garden is just the start!”
The Henri Le Worm community garden will next feature at the Woodlands Farm in Charlton, London.