Eager to pass on cooking skills

By Erin Kavanagh-Hall -

While Masterchef New Zealand's judges are gearing up to crown the latest homegrown hero, many Kiwis can barely stomach preparing a basic spaghetti bolognese.

This was the discovery of Carterton foodie and True Food programme founder Heidi Hendrikse - who, along with four close friends, is starting up cooking classes for Wairarapa locals, starting from next week.

Mrs Hendrikse, who has spent years cooking for her large family, says many people she has met lack confidence in the kitchen.

"Like with anything, cooking can be very overwhelming if you don't know where to start," she said. "Also, a lot people don't have the confidence to ask for help. So, if people can come to us and learn a few basic recipes, that will build their confidence and knowledge."

Mrs Hendrikse was inspired to start up True Food after doing food demonstrations in supermarkets - where shoppers approached her to ask about preparing meals.

"I met people who could really use some one-on-one [instruction] about cooking," she said.

"For example, I met a lot of older men who'd been left alone all of a sudden and had to cook for themselves. They'd been eating the same meals all their lives and thinking 'how do I prepare this?'

"I also met young people who'd just left home, who didn't want to live on McDonald's anymore. I met one young man in a flat who was dying for a salad."

Mrs Hendrikse has four daughters to whom she has passed her culinary wisdom - but says some people aren't as lucky to be taught to cook by family.

"My daughters all had to cook once a week - they'd make one rice dish, one with potatoes and one with pasta. We, their parents, were their guinea pigs. We've sent them out with the complete set of skills - but not everyone is as blessed as they have been. So, we want to pass on the same skills to the community."

She said the True Foods classes will target a wide range of people - from young flatters existing on frozen food and takeaways, to people who want to social experience of learning to cook. "Really, it's for people who have no idea how to cook," says Mrs Hendrikse.

Students will begin the course learning basic cooking skills - such as using fresh ingredients, preparing meals with all four food groups, menu planning and using cooking equipment.

Classes will be held at the Reformed Church of Masterton on Herbert St, which has a basic kitchen. "There's no state of the art equipment in there - we don't want to scare anyone off. If you don't have it at home, there's no use learning to cook with it."

Mrs Hendrikse is hopeful her students will benefit both physically and mentally from learning to cook.

"We'll be cooking meals that are low in fat and sugar - all the things we know to avoid but find it hard to stay away from," said Mrs Hendrikse, who has some ongoing health problems, and finds fresh ingredients hugely beneficial.

"Fresh food is not only better for you, but looks nicer and tastes better. You may as well put the right fuel in the tank. Mentally, cooking is comforting and rewarding. It's something you can do as an act of love for your family or the people you live with."

The True Food programme's classes will begin on May 30 at 7pm, and will cost $20 for a six-week course.

More can be found by emailing truefoodcooking@gmail.com.

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