Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Egg-citing time in the kitchen for 13 kids at Mandarin Oriental

METRO.COM is here to bring communities closer together. It is a series of activities put together by StarMetro for some fun, and lessons people can learn from. Recently, we gave 13 children from Rumah Charis a gala time in the kitchen for Easter.

NOT TOO MANY COOKS: The children getting into the task of making chocolate chip cookies. –SAMUEL ONG/The Star
THEY ooh-ed and aah-ed as they entered the beautiful restaurant, but the children’s delight grew bigger as they spotted the miniature chefs’ hats and uniforms engraved with each child’s name.

They quickly donned their hats, aprons and personalised jackets, though some required assistance from Chef Dirk Haltenhof and his team, including Junior Sous Chef Tan Lee Kiong, First Cook See Lay Na and Chef De Partie Yu Chung Lim.

The 13 children from Rumah Charis, a home for orphans and children from single parent families, were invited to the Pacifica Grill & Bar at Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur, for a cooking project aimed at creating an interest in cooking and exposing them to a professional working environment.

The Easter-themed project al-lowed the children, aged between six and 13-years-old, to participate in fun activities that stimulated creativity while teaching them about the significance of Easter.

“I enjoy teaching children. I like to teach them to build a relationship with their food, to know how food is traditionally made,” said Chef Hal-tenhof.

“For example, I teach them how to make tomato sauce and pizza dough from scratch. It’s about going back to the roots and savouring its original taste, not using stuff that comes straight from the can or bottle.”

The 29-year-old used to have adventures with his brothers, cousins and friends where he would sneak food from his parents’ restaurant, pack a picnic and head off to do something like climb trees.

“I was a troublemaker as a kid and liked playing pranks on my mum,” laughed Chef Haltenhof, who adores working with children and had babysat his godchildren in Germany prior to his posting in KL.

He put the children at ease by cracking jokes and entertaining them with his funny antics, while making sure they enjoyed and learned throughout the cooking session.

The project kicked off with a pizza-baking session and Chef Haltenhof announced there would be a prize for the most creative pizza.

The children soon warmed up to the project as they rolled and flattened their individual pizza dough, then piled on ingredients like cheese, tomatoes, mushrooms and sausages.

Those who were more creative cut their pizza dough into shapes like butterflies and squares, or even placed the ingredients so their pizzas had smiley faces.

After their pizzas were placed in the oven to bake, it was time for their next cooking item – chocolate cookies with Smarties.

Enjoyable tasks: For some of the children,’s Easter project was the first time they got a hands-on experience in the kitchen and they thoroughly enjoyed themselves with the various activities organised for them.
Here, the children had a chance to contribute to a group project as they took turns whisking eggs and pouring melted chocolate, baking powder, sugar, butter, macadamia nuts and other ingredients for the cookie batter.

Meanwhile, some were sneaking in bites of chocolate drops while others started a food fight of sorts by streaking their friends’ faces with leftover melted chocolate.

Chef Haltenhof’s team oversaw the cookies’ shaping and baking process when the children moved on to the next agenda – egg painting.

It was their chance to show off their creativity and they had a ball of a time choosing their favourite food colouring and painting their eggs.

Some were seen meticulously drawing patterns onto their eggs, while others simply blobbed on colours.

The cooking session was over, but more fun was in store for the children after they sat down for lunch, which included the chocolate cookies and a separate batch of pizzas, prepared by Chef Haltenhof and his team.

It was time for an Easter egg-hunting session.

Each child was given a basket, and instructed to hunt for various goodies hidden around the restaurant, like chocolate eggs and Easter bunnies.

“It’s an Easter tradition in Germany that our parents would wake up early on Easter Sunday and hide Easter eggs and small gifts in the garden, which the young children will then hunt for,” said Chef Haltenhof.

After the session ended, he took his time to deliberate before deciding who should win the prize for most creative pizza.

Eric Lim Lian Yew, eight, was declared the winner while Teh Shao Juan was judged the best junior chef.

The other children did not go home empty-handed as they each received a certificate for their egg-painting efforts.

Rumah Charis executive director Pastor Teo How Ken said, “These children may seem like an underprivileged group, but to me, they’re blessed to have this opportunity to become junior chefs.

“They learnt how to make pizzas and cookies, got personalised uniforms and learnt from professional chefs in a well-equipped kitchen. It’s an experience that money can’t buy.”

“I enjoyed making the pizza most. It seems fairly easy, and I look forward to going home and attempting to make my own homemade pizzas,” said Teh Shao Juan, 13.

“It was fun hunting for the Easter goodies,” said Teh Bee Kee, nine, who finds her goodies too precious to eat and plans to display them in her room instead.

For Kenneth Teo, 11, he loved his chef’s uniform so much that he wore it even after the cooking session had ended, and he planned to continue wearing it at home as “the uniform makes me look smarter.”

Source : STAR
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