Leon founders react to news of MBE

Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent, Leon Restaurants

John Vincent and Henry Dimbleby, the co-founders of natural fast food chain Leon, have both been awarded MBEs in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

The pair were given the honour “for services to school food” following their role in helping to create the School Food Plan.

Since the publication of the programme two years ago, thousands of schools across the country have transformed their school food culture with compulsory cooking on the curriculum, new culinary standards and free school meals for all year-one and two primary school students.

Vincent said: “Writing and helping to implement the School Food Plan was a massive privilege and a character-building task. This recognition is a tribute to all of the people who work hard every day to provide health, pleasure and improved attainment to our children. Let’s all keep going.”

Vincent and Dimbleby remain pioneers of the healthy fast food movement after establishing Leon to prove it was possible to serve food that both tastes good and does you good. It is currently up to 22 restaurants in the UK and planning more.

Following the announcement of the MBE, Vincent published a note on the chain’s website to thank well-wishers. It reads:

“Henry and I are so grateful for all the lovely messages of support following today’s MBE announcement. We are really chuffed. This is a great opportunity to recognise that there are many people involved in really making change happen.

“During the development of the School Food Plan, there was a third musketeer called Matthew Purves. Matthew is a civil servant who was at the Department for Education and has now moved on to Ofsted. Matthew was the ultimate professional, helping us navigate the workings of government, providing support and insight, and being with us during some very challenging times and in a number of big meetings. I would like to make sure that Matthew is recognised for his massive contribution, even though his instinct will be to not seek public praise. Thank you Matthew. And thank you to all of the civil servants who worked with Matthew and who have worked with us since.

“During the implementation phase of the Plan, since July 2013, we have been joined by the equally dedicated and extremely able Myles Bremner who has become our new partner. Myles has worked on the implementation full time and has been supported at different times by Leah Schabas and Sarah Grant.

“Henry and I were advised and supported by many who work in school food every day and many of these are assembled into a group with the grand title of the ‘Expert Panel’. These people are:

“Ashley Adamson, Linda Cregan, Richard Dunne, Libby Grundy, Judy Hargadon, Christine Lewis, Brian Lightman, Carmel McConnell, Michael Nelson, Jeanette Orrey, Sarah Owen, Lesley Powell, Mandy Snaith, Sara Jayne Stanes, Stephanie Wood, Anne Bull and Carianne Bishop. There are a number of others who provided expert advice especially Lynda Mitchell and Pat Fellows.

“I would like to thank and congratulate the political leaders who have had the vision and determination to improve the life chances of children through school food. They are come in all flavours – they include Michael Gove for commissioning the Report aka Plan, and for being so into what we were doing always, Ed Balls for his original free school meals pilots and for his advice, Nick Clegg and David Laws for implementing free school meals for infants, Liz Truss for helping us get practical cooking and nutrition on the National Curriculum, Stephen Twigg for his support as Shadow Education Minister,  and Sharon Hodgson who is the Labour Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for School Food.

“And then of course there is Jamie Oliver, who has been a cheerleader and advisor throughout, and his secret right-hand called Louise Holland has supported us and Jamie always, with her ability to deliver tough messages with a smile.

“Thank you too to everyone at Leon who supported us always to make this possible. Every day I am living my dream working with you.

“Great things are happening. The School Food Plan is working. Children, schools and families are benefitting enormously from the great work of chefs, head teachers and leaders in our 22,000 schools.  But there is still much to do, and we need to retain focus and determination. We are only at the beginning of what can be achieved.”

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