Skip to content
Please donate

A recipe for camaraderie

A knife slicing through a green pepper

Making meals and friends

How cookery classes run by Age UK Barnet are putting tasty food and friendship on the menu.



Food plays an important role in our lives. As well as providing vital nutrition, it can be a means of bringing people together. Meanwhile, developing cooking skills can also help us feel more self-sufficient and independent.

Despite this, many of us may lack the confidence or knowledge to prepare healthy meals for ourselves or others.

There can be specific barriers for older men wanting to develop their cookery skills, for example – from different generational norms to feelings of self-consciousness about not having a signature dish beyond beans on toast.

Age UK Barnet wants to change that. They run affordable face-to-face cooking courses for older people, ranging from single sessions to 6-week programmes. The classes teach a range of easy cooking styles for all levels, while helping participants learn the importance of healthy eating and building social connections.

Cooking and companionship

After seeing a poster inviting ‘Men on their own who want to learn to cook’, widower Eric, 75, decided to give the class a go. “When I saw it, I thought it was a great way to get me out of the house every week and to have some structure,” explains Eric. “I can cook and I can learn new skills and meet new people. People work in teams and they learn tolerance, patience and time management.”

Attendees and volunteers at the class offer encouragement to each other, both in and out of the kichen. “Everybody will say the same thing – it’s very sociable,” says Victor, 72. Members find that cooking together is a great way of building trust and getting to know each other. In turn, this allows them to form stronger bonds, often leading to long-standing friendships. “The social side is excellent,” says Roger, 80. “There’s a purpose to it: you come here, and you can have a chat but you’re doing something at the same time.”

Levi Roots visits an Age UK cooking class

A look back to when celebrity chef and entrepreneur Levi Roots visited Age UK Barnet to host a cookery class. 

Broadening horizons through food

Cookery classes are led by a volunteer chef, who brings fresh excitement to the classes by inspiring members to try new foods. “They alternate between different cuisines so there’s a variety,” explains Victor. Programmes have centred around food from around the world like Indian, Greek, and Italian cuisines, exploring vegetarian eating, as well as healthy, affordable options. Recipes are drafted in-house with affordability in mind. “They need to be quite healthy – quick, easy to replicate at home, cost effective and fun,” says Ann, a volunteer chef. “We try to use seasonal fruit and vegetables.”

On the day of our visit Ann prepares a simple recipe for the class of vegetarian moussaka and a simplified meat moussaka, with seasonal fruit pastries for dessert. “It’s really very nice,” is Ann’s verdict, before telling us that chinwagging is also on the menu. “Sometimes it gets a bit too much and they forget to concentrate on the cooking,” laughs Ann.

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding, so the crowning achievement with each class is when the aspiring chefs and volunteers sit down together to try their culinary creations. “The eating part has become the main thing,” says Eric. “It should be fun!”

Find activities near you

From arts and crafts to cookery classes, local Age UKs host a variety of groups where you can meet others and learn something new.

Share this page

Last updated: Oct 20 2023

You might also be interested in

An older woman and younger woman sit next to each other on a sofa, laughing

The power of volunteering

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Age UK, examines the benefits of volunteering and why it's so crucial to Age UK's work.

An illustration of minarets

Ramadan: Sajeda's story

Sajeda, who works as a volunteer with Age UK Barnet, discusses her experiences of Ramadan, past and present.

Become part of our story

Sign up today

Back to top