Hospitality Business Magazine

Building communities through cooking

rsz_nzma_vanessa_baxter_and_jasbir_kaurTelevised cooking competitions have taken the world by storm, providing viewers with endless hours of entertainment, any day of the week. But a new cooking show currently being filmed at NZMA Sylvia Park is aimed at much more than pure entertainment.

‘Senior Best Chef NZ’ has been launched as a way to help integrate the older generation of Indian immigrants into their local Auckland community. It will showcase the culinary skills of a group of talented over-55-year-olds, who have been tasked with cooking secret recipes passed down to them by their parents or grandparents back in India. Dishes prepared by the 50 contestants will be judged by a panel of eight of Auckland’s most acclaimed chefs.

The brainchild of the Life International Charitable Trust, the competition aims to boost morale and build self-esteem amongst the older Indian population residing here in Auckland.

“Many of our elders have struggled to make a new life for themselves here. They’ve left family and friends behind in India, and find it difficult to forge new relationships due to age, language and cultural barriers,” said the Trust’s Janesh Kharbanda.

“They feel lonely and isolated and often the younger family members are too busy with their day-to-day activities to provide enough support. Competing in this event will give our seniors a sense of pride and achievement and also motivate other seniors to get out there and give things a go.”

Competition judge and head of NZMA’s School of Culinary Arts Jasbir Kaur is expecting some mouth-watering competition dishes. “The contestants are all incredible cooks, and they’ll be sharing their most treasured family recipes. I think some of the dishes will be pretty mind-blowing,” said Jasbir.

“Everybody comes from a diverse range of backgrounds and walks of life.  Some are just regular people who have a love of cooking, whilst others have previously been chefs, or owned their own restaurants back in India. Our oldest contestant is 85!”

But regardless of background, or age – the contestants share a love of food and a desire to forge meaningful, rewarding lives for themselves here in Auckland.

Senior Best Chef NZ will screen nationwide on APNZ TV in August, and a cookbook featuring the winning recipes will be out later in the year.