A former student returns with lessons for Grant Allen.

The tables had turned and the teacher was now the pupil. Alex Mackay was in my kitchen showing me his latest tricks.

Twenty five years ago Alex was in our kitchen at Pierre's restaurant in Wellington, completing the final year in his apprenticeship. As bosses, he thought Pierre was down right scary and I was tough. Loping around the kitchen like a loose giraffe, Alex was mischievous, high energy and often in trouble at polytech for challenging his tutors. He was totally likeable and he was deadly serious about food.

He catapulted himself into the world and as fate would have it ended up in the English kitchens of famous French chef Raymond Blanc. No mean feat for a boy who had left Wellington two years earlier not speaking a word of French.

Success followed success and now, way down the track, I am being issued warnings about swearing (in my own kitchen) and told to stop mucking around.


Alex has just released a cookbook called Everybody Everyday, and one of the big things I gleaned from it is to do with seasoning. Instead of automatically reaching for the salt and pepper, Alex sweeps the kitchen for alternatives.

He is a natural teacher and communicator.

"Cooking is everlasting, ever changing, magical fun. I cook all the time, often three times a day. I cook for work, I cook to relax, I grow things that I want to cook and I read about how best to cook them. I love to talk and write about it."

His book is pitched to reach a kitchen novice, explaining some great basic techniques, yet still inspire the more experienced. All recipes are to serve two - this makes them easy to divide or multiply to serve the number you are feeding.

It was a delight to catch up with Alex, and to quote him again: "I believe that cooking is an adventure and that good food should be for everyone."

My thoughts exactly.

Find out more about him and his work at alexmackay.com
Here are the recipes from his book we cooked during his visit:
* Sesame chicken with soy, honey, orange & ginger
* Sesame chicken with soy, honey, orange & ginger
* Salmon curry with chickpeas, mango salsa & mint yoghurt
* Lentil fritters with roast beetroot & hot Camembert cream