This month, we’re talking with Niall, who joined our Little Learners Nursery team earlier this year. As a chef for one of our nursery settings, Niall provided our Little Learners with home-cooked and nutritious meals to give them the energy they need for a day of learning through play.
How would you describe your family?
I was born and raised in Romford, along with my two brothers; I’m the middle child.
My dad’s from Newcastle. He moved to London to work as a librarian, and he’s also a local historian. My mum also worked in the library—that’s how they met. Sadly, I don’t read a lot of books like they do. They love crime novels. Our whole house is full of books.
What did your family teach you?
They taught me to always be kind to people. Both my parents taught me how to cook. My mum’s an excellent baker.
What is your role at LifeLine?
I’m the chef for one of LifeLine’s Little Learners Nurseries. I do snacks, an afternoon lunch, and evening tea for about 30-40 kids a day.
Allergens are a really important thing to be aware of, as well as differing cultural needs—it means special options are always available. On some days, I’m making four different versions of the same dish, so attention to detail is really important.
How long have you been in your role?
I started with Little Learners at the beginning of 2023. Before that, I was a chef at the YMCA in East London. The residents there were really interesting and a lot of fun.
What skills do you need to do the work you do?
Obviously you need to know how to cook, but it’s more than just that—you need to keep things clean and safe, know how to present food, be aware of allergens and food safety, and be comfortable around the children.
What led you to this job?
I’ve loved cooking my whole life. I have a degree in Chemical Science and I find the science of food is really interesting—learning the science makes it all come together in my head. My dissertation at university was all about food; about ‘cultured meat’ in particular, which I think is the future of meat production because its so much better for the environment.
Can you describe your first day at LifeLine, any surprises, what stood out?
My first day was spent learning how the nurseries work, and then I had some time to arrange the kitchen to suit. Everyone here was great and very supportive.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I knew it would either be in science or the food industry.
What has been the happiest day of your life?
Passing my degree was a really big day for me. I got a first. Before that I didn’t think I was going to pass. My family were really impressed.
What one word would you use to describe yourself?
Funny—I like to laugh.
Someone might be having the worst day, but if you can make them laugh, they’ll feel a little bit better.
What's the one thing about you few people know?
I’m double-jointed on my shoulders and elbows. When I was younger, I could twist my arms into really weird positions. I’d like to think I’d make a good clown–maybe I should’ve run away to the circus.