Root to Tip cooking competition

There is a very cool cooking competition happening right around New Zealand right now, it challenges kids from years five and six to create dishes using every part of their chosen fruit or vegetable and they can in to win $1000 from Rabobank. Most importantly any student in years five or six can grab a friend and form a team of two to enter.

The 2019 Rabobank Root to Tip cooking competition is organised by the same wonderful people who run the Garden to Table programme in schools, but rather than just learning how to grow things in a sustainable way Root to Tip encourages entrants to value the produce they have and to learn how to create beautifully tasty dishes.

The teams are required to create two dishes, an entree and main or main and dessert with fruit or vegetables as the hero of each dish.

There are only few things the competition asks of these teams; to use seasonal produce sourced locally from family, community or school gardens, while leaving little or no waste so they get to learn about sustainability, the value of food and reducing waste in a really friendly way.

Head Judge and chef Al Brown believes the competition taps into the creativity and leadership of school-aged Kiwis on the issues of seasonality and reducing food waste, while creating delicious, nutritious food.

“The competition delivers some much-needed creative inspiration as many of us grapple with how we can change the things we do to reduce our environmental footprint, from having gardens at home to using all of what we have.”

“Food waste is a big issue in many New Zealand households, and I think we could all learn a lesson or two from last year’s finalists. They included ingredients most of us would consider ‘food scraps’ and served up some absolutely outstanding dishes.”

“These kids are developing lifelong skills in the kitchen. Learning where food comes from and what season it’s grown in will ultimately improve their health as they make better food choices – that’s what Garden to Table and Root to Tip is all about.”

Rabobank NZ CEO Todd Charteris, says the competition reflects some of the key values Rabobank and its customers share.

“Many of our banking customers are in the business of growing or producing food, and they all share a keen interest in making sure their produce is put to best use.”

Executive Officer of Garden to Table Linda Taylor, says Root to Tip is in its second year as a national competition, “In our first year we had more than 400 school children enter, which well exceeded our expectations. We’re excited to see interest in the competition grow even further this year.”

Last week I phoned Deborah Patterson, the mother of one of last year’s winners Holly Patterson, to find out a bit more about the competition from an entrants point-of-view. Holly and her team mate Madyson Picard from Parua Bay School in Northland made dishes with next to no food wastage that the judges give almost perfect scores to; a veggie patch burger with ribbon fries, made from the peelings of the vegetables used in the burger, and a spiced apple delight dessert using the entire apple.

Because this is a kids cooking competition I wanted to know if they had fun taking part, “they had lots of fun but one of the best things is they weren’t just cooking for themselves, cooking food for a well-known chef and for others was really rewarding for them. Now Holly enjoys cooking for people so she can share her own unique creations.”

“We have a year five boy too who isn’t generally in the kitchen but his sister’s success is rubbing off on him and we are encouraging him to develop food skills too. Every kid can benefit from just taking part, they start thinking about food and food wastage.”

But what about the cost of ingredients for all of the practice while the kids develop and refine recipes? “Part of the Garden to Table programme is about learning where food comes from and how to grow it, so Root to Tip encourages entrants to source produce from home gardens, community gardens or anywhere you can get free fresh fruit and vegetables. There will be an abundance of seasonal crops grown locally in your area or just ask your neighbours.”

Victoria Bernard from Wellington is the Root to Tip coordinator for the Nelson Marlborough regions and she says the entry form is designed to make entrants think about food in a different way, “they need to submit recipes using an online entry form and in it they need to explain how they are embracing the Root to Tip philosophy around waste minimisation by using every part of the main fruit or vegetable ingredient, they need to use seasonal produce and write a description of the dish and try and show the judges how much they get the whole zero waste thing.

“We found it was such an uplifting event that really inspired the entrants, the kids are so cool and they are so young, these kids are talented in so many ways and we want to show them that this can become normal life for them. We’re not setting them up to be great chefs but making waste minimisation using seasonal ingredients normal for how they embrace food, they learn skills for life.”

I asked Deborah how Holly’s attitude to food has changed and she told me “It has had a hugely positive impact, when we go to the supermarket she asks me to buy a variety of foods for her to cook with and her choices comprise of loads of fresh fruit and vegetables. This year for our winter garden Holly has planted trays of seeds that are now healthy seedlings”

Root to Tip is an outstanding opportunity for young people, male or female, from any walk of life to learn some life-changing food skills. Entries are now open until 1st July, regional heats will take place in the first week of August, and the national final will be held on Friday 23rd August in Wellington.

The winning pupils will each receive a $1,000 NoticeSaver account with Rabobank Online Savings, plus a one-year membership to the Garden to Table programme for their school and a range of other kitchen goodies.  All entry details can be found at www.roottotip.org.nz

Published in the Nelson Mail – 19.06.19

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