Hospitality students at Flaxmere College were treated to a visit from Monique and Henry Heke last week as part of their learning about traditional food, cooking techniques and food customs.
During the course of the morning, My Kitchen Rules and NZ on a Plate participants cooked with the level one and two students, smoking fresh kahawai, butter and cheese for their famous "Ka pai kahawai".
Monique also shared her recipe for Paraoa Parai (fried bread) and her tips for getting the perfect bechamel sauce and creamy mashed potatoes.
She said "some kids these days have been brought up on a lot of processed food and possibly not whanau members that cook themselves, so we think it is really important that kids are encouraged to cook traditional Maori kai as well as healthy options."
"We want to encourage kids to get in the kitchen and start cooking and experimenting and enjoying food really.
"We're local; we are from Flaxmere and we always try to help out where we can to support our community generally. We're also part of the Flaxmere Wellbeing Challenge and Henry and I have been booked in for a session to help whanau put together a menu for Christmas on a budget, so we're looking forward to that," Mrs Heke said.
Henry stressed their approach to sharing kai and the important role it plays bringing people and whanau together. He encouraged the students to just "give it a go", don't be afraid to make some mistakes along the way, but always treat your food with respect.
Year 11 student Kimi Lamen said "it was fun learning new techniques and after watching them on TV it was exciting to meet them in person - especially since they are from my own community."
Flaxmere College hospitality teacher Stephanie Moore said "it was a wonderful experience for students who have been learning about the importance of using fresh, locally produced and sustainable ingredients and how to cater for large groups of people."
She said the lesson had been very important for the students.
"We had covered some of the cooking techniques and ingredients as part of our hospitality programme, but it added another dimension having Monique and Henry show them how to take traditional ingredients and add a modern flair.
"Alongside this, they shared their local knowledge of the area and its produce along with customs around gathering kai. Their passion and love for cooking really came through and they encouraged the students, whether cooking or tasting food - to just give it a try," Ms Moore said.
Henry is a past Flaxmere College Board of Trustee member and his son, Zion attended the school.