Ian Taverner released his cookbook Cookfulness in 2020, with the sole aim of helping people living with chronic health conditions get back into the kitchen and enjoy cooking. In 2021 he joined the team at PosAbility to contribute exclusive recipes for our readers and he also joined forces with Footsteps Festival to deliver free cooking workshops online. We find out more about the benefits of these cooking workshops from Ian.

When did you start your cooking workshops online?
These began in March 2021 when I did my first workshop. I was so nervous making this first recording because I had absolutely no idea how it would be received. I just did what I do; cooked, had fun, made mistakes, laughed, and got some dishes out at the end! That was the first one of series 1, although I didn’t have a clue at that time if there would be any more. I am now on series 3. There are six workshops per series so I am definitely getting better at this!

Can you tell us a bit more about Footsteps Festival and your involvement?
The Footsteps Festival is an incredible online experience for anyone living with chronic pain and/or associated conditions, and also their family and friends, as they are also directly affected by this. Set up by a mixture of health professionals and people with real lived chronic illness experiences, it was initially going to just be for a year during 2021, to offer people and their families the chance to experience different ways to get creative, try new things and become part of an amazing online community that was being built. They approached me right at the beginning to see if I would do cooking workshops and of course, I jumped at the chance. Well I didn’t actually jump, that would hurt too much!

The Festival offers such an amazing array of opportunities for people, from a weekly create and chat session, to sessions on everything from mindfulness, wild swimming, health and nutrition, entangling, sleep, and, of course, me! It is constantly being managed and updated to provide the best possible support and opportunities for people. I only wish I had had access to something like this for the many years when I felt there was no way out.

As the first year has been so incredibly successful, it is going on to another year and I am incredibly proud and privileged to be a part of this amazing team.

What do your workshops involve?
cookingIn each series I will do six workshops, which run every Friday at 2pm, and the current series runs until Friday 8 April.  They last for about an hour, the first half is a video that I have pre-recorded showing how to make three different dishes. I prepare everything sat at my kitchen table, to show how you can widen your kitchen and make the cooking experience so much happier. I usually have a theme for each week, so it can be anything from three recipes using baked beans, to the current ones where I am doing anti-inflammatory/low FODMAP recipes.  I show how you can adapt ingredients, how useful your freezer is, and the different ways ingredients can come, so that you are able to cook and prepare no matter the type of day you are having.

During the video people can ask me questions using the comments feature. After the film, we go live and I take questions, firstly the written ones and then people have the chance to ask me anything, either in the comments or verbally if they want to. We have an amazing chat about everything, from hints and tips to preparing and cooking, to different ingredients, people asking for help with certain issues they have, there are no barriers!  I will try and take suggestions from these amazing chat sessions as to what I can build for upcoming workshops, so I am constantly tailoring them to people’s needs.

Do people need anything special to get involved?
Absolutely not!  Firstly, they are FREE! Anyone can donate to the Festival to help with the running of it, but it isn’t mandatory and you can just enjoy the show.

A lot of people are naturally very anxious about being seen or heard on Zoom, which I absolutely understand.  The great thing is that you can attend, join the link and then switch off your camera, switch off your mic, and just watch. If you want to ask a question you can write one in the comments section. If you want to ask something in person you can turn your mic on and leave your camera off, it is entirely up to you. You don’t have to do anything that makes you uncomfortable. There is absolutely no pressure, it is very relaxed and just great fun.


Ian Taverner

What do you hope people get out of the workshops?
I just hope that people can see that there are ways you can cook, not only cook, but absolutely love cooking and everything about it. I hope to turn cooking from a position of hate and anxiety, to one of joy and passion. Turn ingredients from the “same old same old”, to new and exciting. Turn shopping from hateful and painful, to wondrous and positive! I also hope they get a sense of community from seeing and hearing from other people living with chronic illness, and from me too. I hope that it can help build some confidence, some passion and some pride, which I know from personal experience can be taken away from you when living with chronic pain and illness. Most of all though, I just hope people have some fun. Cooking really can be a part of therapy!

Do you enjoy doing these?
I can’t tell you how much I love these! The making of them is fantastic, dreaming up dishes that I can make, recording them and getting that side done. Personally, that gives me so much pride and confidence in myself that I am able to do it. My family love watching the process of me doing them too, even the dog has appeared in some! The sessions themselves though are just incredible. Seeing and hearing people, every week, taking small steps towards trying to cook, trying new things, not worrying about things going wrong, just enjoying the way there, that’s just priceless. I learn so much too, about concerns people have, problems with specific ingredients or utensils or dishes. It is very collaborative with sharing of ideas and tips, sharing of failure and successes, its wondrous! I would like to do these for forever and a day, well as long as people will still have me anyway!

How do people get involved?
All you need to do to book your place for the entire series is go to: my.livewellwithpain.co.uk/festival/street-kitchen/cookfulness/

Here you can see what’s coming up and the dates they take place, you can click on the Booking button and then you will be sent a link that you can use for every workshop in the series. It is run over Zoom, so once you have your link, just click it at 2pm on a Friday and enjoy the session!

If for any reason you can’t make one, then the recorded elements of the show will be on the Festival’s website and YouTube channel. Also, the ingredients list I use for each dish within each workshop are added so you don’t have to be scribbling things down and missing things as a result!

Main image credit: Jenna Erbert/Unsplash

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