Helping kids beat OBESITY
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.