Friday, 07 August 2020


Young chef feeds hearts and minds, as well as tummies at Central Kids Tairua

Haylee Cammock’s passion for cooking may only be matched by her passion for caring.

The 20-year-old chef loves nothing more than creating and concocting delectable delights for the customers at Flock Kitchen & Bar in Tairua. However, every six weeks or so, when her work schedule allows, you’ll find Haylee in a very different and possibly not so fancy kitchen, where she also serves up delicious healthy kai for a group of loyal fans who are also her most honest critics.

It’s just after 11:30am when I arrive at Central Kids Tairua Kindergarten a few Fridays ago and the smell of homemade shepherd’s pie accompanies the warm greeting from an excited bunch of young students. Behind the counter, decked out in her chef’s uniform, Haylee is removing a tray of beautifully golden mini pies from the oven.

“She arrived early this morning,” says head teacher, Bridget Crossley. “She’s gone off to the shop to get all these ingredients and she’s been here since creating this amazing meal for our tamariki.”

Not only is Haylee feeding the children and teaching them about healthy food, she is inspiring them. “They see a real chef here in their kitchen and see what she does, they absolutely love it,” says Bridget.

As she carefully eases her shepherd’s pies out onto the plates where they sit cooling alongside some carrot and broccoli, Haylee, who has been persuaded by Bridget and mum, Sally, who also works at the kindy, to do this interview is smiling nervously. Despite her obvious warmth and sunny personality, the spotlight is not her place of choice. “I don’t know what to say,” she giggles. “I just love kids and I really believe in the importance of good nutrition. I try to think of recipes that they will enjoy but that will also be healthy and provide some fruit and veg to help with their 5-a-day.

“They can’t come into the kitchen obviously for safety reasons, but they will come up to the bench and gather around and sometimes they’ll ask about what I’m making. It’s cool. I think the more we learn when we are young about our food and what goes into it, the more likely we are to make healthy choices in the future.”

Thanks to Haylee’s efforts in sharing her time and talent, to date the children have enjoyed a range of freshly prepared lunches, including fish tacos, mini pizzas and macaroni cheese which was rated most popular to date and completely cleaned up by the kindy children. She does include the odd treat like shortbread Christmas cookies where she reveals the biggest challenge was getting the biscuits in the oven before the children ate all the mixture!

Having trained in cookery for two years at Wintec, Haylee says she was thrilled to be offered the job at Flock and the ability to work in Tairua where her family have lived for the past 12 years.

Even when Haylee is not available, with the support of parents, hot lunch Fridays go ahead at the kindy every week. “Usually we have rolling kai, which means there isn’t a set time for lunch as it’s more important for the children to eat when they need to,” says Bridget. “But we make an effort on Fridays to try and sit together. It’s not compulsory and no-one has to eat if they don’t want to, but we do encourage them to participate and most of them come and give it a go.”

As we gather around the table for our meal, there is much discussion on what we should eat first. A clearly more experienced four-year-old advises I should start with my tree because it’s the best bit, followed by my stick. Okay, I agree, broccoli followed by carrot it is. And the shepherd’s pie was super yummy too!

Pictured: Emilie Burton and Charlie Curtin keenly observe as chef Haylee Cammock prepares lunch at Central Kids Tairua.


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