Kiwi celebrity chef Al Brown is helping kids grow and cook veggies, even going as far as using the produce in the kitchen of his downtown Auckland restaurant.

As part of the Garden to Table programme, Meadowbank School is learning to grow vegetables, harvest them and cook them with the help of Brown and staff at his Depot restaurant.

Read more: How kids are learning to cook and grow their own greens
Garden to Table now works with thousands of primary school-aged children, helping them discover a love for fresh food and teaching them kitchen skills.

The programme, which turns 10 next year, is designed to take learning outside the classroom.

Advertisement

Brown decided to take it to another level by using produce grown by the kids in his own restaurant to serve up to his own customers.

"We kind of adopted the school.

"We started sending our wait and kitchen staff to work with them in the garden and in the kitchen.

"Now the children as part of the programme come here to the restuarant."

The children were growing silverbeet and rhubarb at different times of the year then giving it to Brown to use.

Al Brown's initiative encourages kids to grow, prepare, cook and share seasonal produce. Photo / supplied
Al Brown's initiative encourages kids to grow, prepare, cook and share seasonal produce. Photo / supplied

"We make dishes with it. When someone orders the money made goes back to the school."

He even gets the kids into the kitchen to teach them what it means to be a chef.

Kids were more likely to eat Brussels sprouts that they had grown themselves, he argued.

"A lot of kids are picky eaters but if you are a part of that process you will eat it."

Brown said the whole idea of the Garden to Table programme was "about teaching kids to grow and to learn to cook".

"Schools are planting fruit trees, herbs, veggie gardens. They harvest, prepare, they have a kitchen, they cook, and then they sit down and have a meal at the end of the day."

Garden to Table co-founder and board chair Catherine Bell said the rise of the programme had been a slow-burner rather than something meteoric.

Next year Garden to Table would celebrate 10 years of operation, she said.

Chef Al Brown getting youngsters on board with eating the food they grow. Photo / supplied.
Chef Al Brown getting youngsters on board with eating the food they grow. Photo / supplied.

"We started from zero and we are now at 150 (schools), there has been a lot of growth in the past 18 months now that we have launched the programme online."

A further 200 primary and intermediate schools were on the waiting list to be on the programme, she said.

Brown had been heavily involved ever since she had approached him to be the programme's first ambassador.

"He is a great guy and he takes it to a new level.

"To date he has gone above and beyond. Especially with Meadowbank School," she said.

Principals often quipped to her that truancy would drop when Garden to Table classes were under way.

"Kids always turn up and the behaviour is better. Even the naughtiest kids will suddenly become model students."

However, in order to continue to teach kids to grow and prepare good food more volunteers were needed, she said.

If you want to help get in touch with the team on 09 379 8670.