Inspiring teachers with a hands-on masterclass

21 May 2023, as a gold partner of HETTANZ (Home Economic and Technology Teachers Association), took the opportunity to provide a Masterclass at the association’s annual conference held in Paihia in May.

Chef Neil Brazier held a masterclass for 30 teachers at Kerikeri High School.

Chef Neil Brazier held a masterclass for 30 teachers at Kerikeri High School.

The conference ran over three days, and the program included our three-hour Masterclass. A fantastic opportunity to showcase New Zealand grown vegetables and the Food Skills for Life program. Renowned chef Neil Brazier (of Sugar Club fame) delivered a hands-on, practical session for 30 teachers at nearby Kerikeri High School. His key focus: seasoning and knife skills 

In his personable and engaging manner, Neil shared his insights and extensive knowledge of the New Zealand hospitality industry; the current issues, and his take on the post-pandemic reset of the industry. His passion for cooking and fostering the next generation of chefs and home cooks was evident.

Citing seasoning and knife skills as the ‘bread and butter’ of cooking, and the foundation Neil himself looks for from any new chef arriving in his kitchen, he tailored the masterclass around these fundamental skills and used New Zealand grown vegetables as a vehicle to demonstrate them. 

A humble leek and potato soup was the base for a fantastic hands-on activity to demonstrate the importance of seasoning, and possibilities beyond salt to enhance flavour. Teachers were given free rein to explore the effect of different seasonings such as miso and tamarind. A delicious start to the session.

Once in the kitchen, teachers were exposed to an abundant display of colourful vegetables of all shapes and sizes. Neil showed off his excellent knife skills by demonstrating the classic vegetable cuts and talking through their application. Sparking a lively debate regarding which vegetable cuts are relevant in a modern kitchen and the most widely used cuts amongst the teachers in their teaching kitchens.

The teachers were then split into teams and tasked with preparing and presenting one of four vegetable-centric dishes. This practical exercise provided an opportunity to hone their knife skills and allow their own interpretation of seasoning. The teachers revelled in the opportunity to roll up their sleeves and get creative. The vegetable dishes varied across cuisine types and cooking methods, from vegetable and coconut dhal, to carrot and mushroom tart, vegetable tacos to onion and shallot tarte tatin.

There was a palpable energy in the kitchen as the teams prepared and cooked their recipes within the time limit. Neil encouraged group discussion on the presentation of dishes, offering nuggets of advice around modern plating techniques, and innovative ways to garnish using the vegetable components. He also highlighted the benefits of a flexible and fluid approach to cooking; not being afraid to swap out a particular vegetable for an alternative that is in season or more readily available.   

Overall, a fantastic session celebrating New Zealand grown vegetables, with the teachers leaving inspired and armed with knowledge and tools to motivate their students. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive:

“Neil and team led an excellent session; I would say this is the best masterclass I’ve experienced in 19 years of teaching. Neil is engaging, entertaining and highly informative; the perfect tutor. The sensory and seasoning activity at the beginning was gold.”

“Thoroughly loved this session, heaps of creative ideas and skills to take back for the students to inspire them.”