Young master the kitchen

By Vaimoana Tapaleao

Vanessa Baxter with King's School pupils (left to right) Andrew Cao, Miles Ball, Lars Featherstone and Ted Yates, who can't wait to get cooking. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Vanessa Baxter with King's School pupils (left to right) Andrew Cao, Miles Ball, Lars Featherstone and Ted Yates, who can't wait to get cooking. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Pupils at an Auckland prep school are going head-to-head in a MasterChef-style competition to find the best cook on campus.

Up to 420 youngsters from King's School in Remuera are taking part in the Mini MasterChef competition over the next two weeks.

MasterChef NZ contestant Vanessa Baxter - who made the top four this season - pitched the initiative to the school after seeing her own sons' enthusiasm about cooking.

"I've always loved cooking with my own children and I just thought that there might be an awesome opportunity with a school and principal who might like to do something like this with their kids.

"It's about families cooking together and getting children cooking food from a very young age."

Pupils aged 9 to 13 will compete in heats next week, with 10 going through to the semifinals and one child from each year group going to the finals.

They will be asked to cook a gourmet hamburger in the heats, a chicken stir-fry in the semis and then a surprise task in the final, which will be held in front of the whole school.

The judging panel will include MasterChef judge Simon Gault.

At the school yesterday, 9-year-olds Andrew Cao, Miles Ball, Lars Featherstone and Ted Yates raced to get their aprons on when asked to start cooking.

All said they were excited to be cooking in the classroom. Their specialties ranged from pancakes, muffins and BBQ chicken to baked beans on toast.

"I can't wait to see Simon Gault. He's cool," Andrew said.

"I can't wait to taste everything," Lars said.

Much of the food and cooking equipment that will be used has been donated by businesses and sponsors.

Herbs and some vegetables from the school's vegetable garden will also be used by pupils and $4 from each participant will go towards a Canteen bandanna, with all funds raised to go to the youth cancer charity.

Headmaster Tony Sissons said the initiative would help to build relationships between children and their parents in the kitchen. It would also teach them various skills that were not only useful at home but at school as well.

"Cooking, at times, is also quite scientific. If you get one of the variables wrong, then it won't come out right and it won't taste right - the boys will see this when they start cooking."

Mrs Baxter said if this went well, she hoped to get funding to put the project in various schools throughout Auckland.

MasterChef final tomorrow, TV One, 7.30pm.

- NZ Herald

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