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TV chef gets kids to focus on food.

GET ready to put your feet up, mums! Celebrity chef Gary Rhodes is planning to visit schools to teach kids how to cook up dishes for their parents!

Gary has launched a personal crusade to make cookery a compulsory subject for pupils aged seven to 11.

His Focus on Food campaign will encourage children to create simple but nutritious meals by making cooking exciting and fun.

'This campaign is not about turning children into budding chefs,' says Gary, who lives in Kent with wife Jennie and two sons, Samuel and George.

'It's about teaching them to cook simple meals and recognise different foods and flavours.

'Ask 10 children if they like broccoli and at least seven would say no. But five of them have probably never tried it simply because they don't like the look of it.

'My children were the same so I told them they could cook it. At first they turned their noses up but then they asked what they should do with it.

'They ended up cooking it with almond and butter. Do you think they ate it then?

They couldn't wait!

'They had pride in the fact that they'd created something. That's what we need to do in schools - there needs to be an excitement about cooking.

'We've had calls from teachers during the tour saying, 'Little Johnny has a new zest for all his lessons, having found he has a skill in cooking.' Gary produced his first solo culinary creation at just 13. He cooked a Sunday roast and steamed lemon sponge pudding for his family but kept it a secret from his pals.

'To come into school on Monday and say I'd cooked a great lemon sponge at the weekend wasn't a manly thing to do. It was better to say you'd scored a hat-trick at football, so I just kept quiet.

'Nowadays I think children are more into food. I love the idea of kids cooking for mum and dad every so often. Just soft scrambled egg with crispy bacon on toast makes a wonderful light, easy meal for children to cook.'

He believes the Midlands is full of culinary delights, some of which he enjoyed during his Rhodes Around Britain television series.

'I remember eating a traditional dish where all three courses were cooked in one pot,' he says. 'There was pork, lots of fresh carrots, onions, swede and potatoes, and a leek suet pudding was dropped into it.

'For starters, we had soup bowls of the stock and vegetables. Next the pork was served with green vegetables and to finish the leek dumpling was eaten as a savoury dish.

'It was sensational, I'd never seen anything like it before.'

Gary has cooked - and eaten - with some of the world's greatest celebs.

'I was asked to cook for Princess Diana and Tom Hanks after the premiere of Apollo 13,' he recalls. 'I spent the day preparing a guinea fowl dish and a crme brle.

'Next thing I knew, I was asked to join them for dinner. It was one of those dream dinner party scenarios - I could never have imagined it in my life.

'We talked about the film and food, but the funniest thing was when we came to dessert because Tom Hanks didn't like crme brle.

Luckily we'd prepared lots of different flavours of homemade sorbet and ice-cream, which we served him. He was in his element!'

Gary has just launched a range of domestic kitchen appliances which are available at Argos.

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CHEF'S CRUSADE... Gary Rhodes wants more children to cook
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Mar 30, 2003
Words:594
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