Celebrity chef a hot hit with students

A dozen youngsters soaked up every word from celebrity chef Brett McGregor as he talked them through the process of making a tangy, tasty Thai dish in a special cooking lesson at the school last week.

The school had been selected as one of only three in the country where McGregor will run master classes in cookery, as part of a nationwide three-week cooking-in-schools campaign.

The "Let's Cook" programme, sponsored by kitchen appliance company Parmco, will involve almost 400 schools around the country, a number of which will be visited by McGregor.

At Rhodes Street School, the children, aged 9 to 13, were kitted out in aprons and hats and were cooking minced chicken in pans on single-burner gas stoves. Others were busy preparing herbs and other ingredients.

McGregor, formerly a teacher, says he has created a series of special recipes for a cooking competition to be run in conjunction with the programme, with schools able to win one of eight Parmco kitchen packages. Total prizes are worth $150,000.

"Let's Cook is not about which child cooks the best dish. It's about encouraging kids, and the whole family, to get in the kitchen and give cooking a try," he says.

Parmco general manager Trevor Preston says the response from schools has been so strong in this first year he is sure the company will be interested in making the cooking competition an annual event.

Rhodes Street School principal Shane Ngatai, a former chef himself, says the cooking classes are a favourite with students.

"The good thing about this is that cooking a Thai dish like they're doing today is not the usual sort of dish children would want to try cooking or would order at a restaurant.

"But they're really enjoying it," he says.

And for 12-year-old Elijah Walker-Roberts, who has been taking cooking classes at the school for four years, the visit by Brett McGregor acted as yet another spur to his avowed ambition: "I'm going to be a chef.

"It's been pretty cool working with Mr McGregor and having him teach us how to cook," he says.

Then he points towards the larb gai dish he's just helped create, and from which he's tried several heaped spoons.

"I've got the recipe for that in my head," he says.

"I'm going to make it at home this weekend."

- Hamilton News

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