Helping Rotorua children cook up a storm and grow a passion for healthy meals has been one of the big highlights of the past year for local chef Deep Kumar.

Kumar was the organiser of the first Junior Master Chef Rotorua competition last March/April.

On Easter Friday contestants faced a mystery box challenge and a gourmet burger challenge, then tackled a breakfast dish and classic pasta dish the following day.

On the Sunday the finalists had to whip up a three-course meal.


The winners were team Burnt Toast - Leo Schweizer and Tom Parry, both 13 at the time, followed by runners-up The Kumara Gods, made up of Olivia Schweizer and Skye du Plessis, also both 13 at the time.

The other two teams in the final were The IncrEdibles and MJ's Kitchen.

Kumar said the competition was a personal highlight of the year.

"After this show I can see how much talent they have and more kids are having an interest [in food]."

Once the show was over, Kumar and the finalists co-authored his next cookbook.

The book, Let's Eat, was launched last month and the presale was great, selling 100 copies, he said.

Kumar said the book had been nominated for the Gourmand Cooking Award in the fundraising category, held every year in China.

He said fundraising through the book would go towards the competition and keeping free cooking classes running for local children.

Kumar said it had been good to see the finalists again at the book launch.

"It's great to have the finalists on board - they've been icons of Rotorua."

Kumar has many goals in mind for 2019 too.

He would like to make the Junior Master Chef competition nationwide and have it televised in 2019.

He is also taking over a restaurant in Christchurch so would like to start free cooking classes for children there.

However, his biggest project this year is to set up a community kitchen for cooking classes.

"My idea is to have a community kitchen. Rotorua would be the base but kids from different cities can come along.

"The goal is to have our own kitchen and run free cooking classes to teach children as much as we can."

Kumar believes today's accessibility to food means people are getting too lazy and do not want to cook.

"I think that's what kids are adopting. Today's food is so accessible that we don't bother, and I think it's important to educate them about healthy eating."

He said if children could be educated more on cooking and healthy eating then he believed New Zealand could one day be a healthy nation.

Let's Eat is currently available online at or at Giovanni's Restaurant.