FORMER restaurateur Madeleine Hoyle has a fancy new title as Todmorden’s Food Inspirer. Her mission is to get locals interested in growing, cooking and eating food glorious food.

She ran Todmordon Hall for 16 years before it was sold last year and the accomplished foodie professional wasn’t on the look-out for a new job.

“But it sounded so interesting, I found it hard to resist,” says Madeleine, who works 24 hours a week for minimum wage. “It’s really not about the money it’s about inspiring people who maybe don’t have time or the finances to cook good quality local produce.”

Madeleine is based at the town’s Incredible Edible Aqua Garden and is running courses for parents and children using aquaponics, hydroponics and the facility’s polytunnel to demonstrate how food goes from the ground to the table.

“It’s fascinating keeping 20 people, including 12 children under the age of nine interested. People have the view that local produce is more expensive but I have been working with local producers to come up with ideas which will encourage local people to choose them over the chains. Some people will never go into a fishmonger to buy a piece of fish, but they may go in to to buy a fish mix for a fish pie.

“Also, in my youth sausages were pretty awful things filled with rubbish, but not any more and they don’t have to be expensive. I cooked a cassoulet for 60 people recently and the ingredients only cost £12.50. It’s about getting local producers to support us and me being imaginative in coming up with recipes like fish pie for £1.50 for a family of four.

“We have so many plans to bring people into the Aqua Garden and to go out into the community. We are running growing and cookery courses for families and school children, we want to put on special meals with food-inspired speakers, and we will be going out to Todmorden Agricultural Show on June 21 and talking to people on the town’s market.”

Madeleine has some big ideas of how she’s going to get the message out, including cooking classes with junior school children, using the ingredients they themselves planted only a few weeks earlier. “Children love it and hopefully they will retain some of what they have learned and it will stay them.”

“When school children come to the Aqua Garden we want to make sure they have an exciting experience and that they gain as much from their visits as possible. Many of them are coming once a week over a period of six weeks, which is great because it means if they plant herbs, for example, in the first week we can actually pick their own produce in the sixth week to use in our cooking.

Just simple things, such as putting freshly picked herbs into an egg dish can really help to connect people with their food, literally from seed to fork.

“We will also be running family cookery courses that parents and children can do together.

In the morning we’ll have a guided tour of the Aqua Garden and introduce them to aquaponics and hydroponics and then we’ll pick some tomatoes and herbs and make homemade pizzas.

“We’ll lay the table and all enjoy dinner together. In the afternoon we’ll make buns and cakes so they have something to take home. Healthy food doesn’t have to be boring, in fact it can be very tasty and cooking together can be great fun.”