Thursday, 22 August 2019


Thai mussel and kumara curry top dish in MBAS Masterchef competition

The second Mercury Bay Area School Masterchef final took place on Wednesday last week. The competition was devised by food and nutrition teacher, Joanna Mannington, as an interesting activity for students to participate while the school year is winding down.

From a few weeks ago, all Year 7 and 8 students have had the opportunity to cook individually or in pairs a signature dish in the school’s food technology room. The dishes were all judged by Sam Gosling, the owner of Poivre & Sel Restaurant in Whitianga and Sam Fowell, the owner of Eggsentric Café in Flaxmill Bay. The students who cooked the top eight dishes progressed through to the final.

The final was an entirely different kettle of fish than cooking in the food technology room. It took place in the MBAS hall in front of a live audience (made up of students, teachers and parents), the only form of heat available to the finalists were two gas burners and they were given a mystery box of ingredients and a “staples pantry” only 15 minutes before their hour-long cooking time started.

Maths and science teacher, Thomas Everth, also couldn’t resist the opportunity to introduce some new technology into the final and live-streamed all the cooking action from his smart phone onto a big screen in the hall.

The mystery box the finalists had to cook with was made up of all-local products, including mussels, macadamias, honey, kumara, avocado and cheese.

The dishes of the finalists were judged by Joanna, Caroline Ruggle of Go Vino Restaurant in Cooks Beach and Gabriel Souza of The Church Restaurant in Hahei. Caroline is an ex-MBAS student and it was her first time back at the school since she left Whitianga approximately five years ago to train as a chef.

Joanna says the standard of the cooking at the final was very high. “The students were all very organised during the time they cooked and that showed in the quality of the dishes they presented to us,” she says. “As judges, we constantly had to remind ourselves that we were tasting food prepared by cooks with very limited experience and who had only the most basic of equipment to work with.”

The winner of the competition was Year 7 student, Joshua Page, with a Thai mussel and kumara curry. “Joshua is only 11 years old, but showed a maturity way beyond his years with his dish,” says Joanna.

Among the other dishes were mussel pasta, mussel and kumara cakes, mussels stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon and crumbed mussels. Many of the dishes featured a side salad.

Joshua’s parents, Simon and Lara Page, attended the final. Lara says Joshua loves cooking and is always cooking dinner for them at home. “We’re super proud of his skills in the kitchen,” she says.

Joshua says he didn’t expect to win the competition. “It’s a great feeling,” he says. “I would like to become a professional chef one day.”

Joshua won a $50 voucher from The Church restaurant and a set of chef’s knives.

Joanna says she hope the Masterchef competition will become a yearly event on the MBAS calendar. “We’ve improved on things this year and will keep on refining the competition as we go along,” she says. “We’re grateful for the support the competition is getting from the hospitality industry in the Mercury Bay area. If the competition helps to unearth a few students’ passion for food, it will all be worth it.”

Pictured: Joshua Page (in the front), winner of the 2018 Mercury Bay Area School Masterchef competition, with his parents and the judges of the competition. From the left - Caroline Ruggle, Gabriel Souza, Lara Page, Simon Page and Joanna Mannington.



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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.