Help­ing kids beat OBE­SITY

Havelock North Village Press - - News -

Con­cern over child obe­sity has stirred restau­ra­teur and TV chef Michael Van de Elzen, of The Food Truck fame, to write Good From Scratch Kids Cook­book. He hopes to lure kids away from the neg­a­tive stats: ac­cord­ing to Min­istry of Health fig­ures, 12 per cent of 2 to 14-yearolds are obese. In a bid to re­verse this trend, Van de Elzen plans to do a book tour to raise money for schools.

Why is it im­por­tant for kids to learn to cook?

I’m very en­thu­si­as­tic about chil­dren eat­ing good food and liv­ing a healthy life, and a huge part of this is en­abling them with the skills to cook for them­selves and their fam­i­lies. It’s great to get kids into the kitchen and use their brain, hands and taste­buds to cre­ate fun, ex­cit­ing ex­pe­ri­ences and new mem­o­ries. I want Kiwi kids to have a healthy diet, but I also want them to ex­pe­ri­ence dif­fer­ent tastes, smells and tex­tures when they’re try­ing new foods.

At what age do you think we should in­tro­duce them to cook­ing?

I think once they are at school they can start help­ing with lit­tle jobs. A 5-year-old cer­tainly wouldn’t be mak­ing some­thing tech­ni­cal like a pate, but they can help to mea­sure out and stir in­gre­di­ents.

Give us three tips to en­cour­age kids to cook.

■ Make it fun!

■ Start from scratch — get them into the vege gar­den or buy pot­ted herbs so they can see what the dif­fer­ent vegeta­bles and flavours look like in their orig­i­nal form

■ Eat to­gether! Make cook­ing a so­cial event

And some­thing to en­cour­age them to eat healthy!

In­tro­duce them to recipes that are a healthy twist on their favourites, so they don’t think eat­ing healthy means bor­ing, bland food.

And how do we get them to be­come ad­ven­tur­ous with food?

Try dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions. They may not like some­thing on its own, but pair­ing it with com­ple­ment­ing flavours is a great way to in­tro­duce it to their palate. The palate de­vel­ops and chil­dren grow up so if they don’t like some­thing now, in a few years it may be their favourite food!

What was the first thing you cooked as a child?

Frozen sausage rolls that I burnt on my tin can camp cooker, they were dis­gust­ing!

What did you have on your school lunches?

Cur­ried egg sand­wiches. I was brought up on a chicken farm so eggs were plen­ti­ful.

What is your phi­los­o­phy on food?

My phi­los­o­phy is en­com­passed in my Good From Scratch brand — there is noth­ing bet­ter than a meal where you know what the in­gre­di­ents are.

What are three things in your fridge that would en­cour­age a young­ster to start cook­ing?

■ Green ba­con, I’ve cured it but haven’t smoked it yet

■ Can­nel­loni tubes

■ Good beef mince . . . the op­tions are end­less!

What’s a sim­ple healthy go to meal for kids to make for a fam­ily din­ner?

One of my favourites from the book is the beef noo­dle salad with man­darin nam jim — fast to throw to­gether but lots of flavours, and enough com­po­nents for kids to feel a real sense of pride when serv­ing it to the fam­ily!

What are your five most im­por­tant pantry sta­ples?

Sea salt, grove av­o­cado oil, whole peeled toma­toes or pas­sata, gar­lic, canned beans like le puy lentils or but­ter beans.

Can I sneak in a sixth? Fresh eggs.

What gave you the idea to em­bark on a cook­book for kids?

I’ve al­ways wanted to do a cook­book for chil­dren but re­cently I’ve seen more and more statis­tics come out around child­hood obe­sity here. I wanted to cre­ate a book that gave chil­dren the tools and recipes to make healthy dishes, with­out see­ing cook­ing as a chore or bor­ing.

Three of your most im­por­tant safety tips for bud­ding young chefs . . .

■ Wash your hands be­fore start­ing and af­ter han­dling raw meats. My favourite is the Eco­s­tore foam­ing hand wash be­cause it’s gen­tle on my skin and doesn’t have any nas­ties.

■ Al­ways ask per­mis­sion to cook in the kitchen, and ask an adult to help if you’re us­ing sharp knives or hot pans.

■ Keep the han­dles of pots and pans fac­ing away from the edge so you don’t knock them.

Tell us three things about your­self that would sur­prise.

■ I get ner­vous when I have to cook for oth­ers at our house.

■ You might catch me talk­ing to my chick­ens, I find it im­poves the egg-lay­ing per­cent­ages.

■ My red 1985 sin­gle cab ute is the best! I drive it ev­ery­where. I even jam the whole fam­ily in for the morn­ing school drop off.

TV chef Michael Van de Elzen aims to make cook­ing fun for kids.

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