The Fearless Kitchen
by Vanessa BaxterBateman RRP $39.99
Vanessa Baxter is a Ronald McDonald House Ambassador, an active supporter of KOTO Charities, which help educate street kids in all areas of hospitality, and has recently been involved with Bridge the Gap, teaching youth in New Zealand prisons how to cook. In all of these endeavours, she is driven by her passion for cooking.
‘Going into the Child Services centre in New Zealand took me back to a visit to a similar institution in Melbourne when I was studying psychology and criminology,’ says Vanessa.‘The kids are in care, but they are in locked care. This is not a holiday camp, this is an institution. It is grey, it is plain, it is sparse. It was exactly as I remembered from 1987. My heart broke.
‘When we started to create food, it was slow to start, but the eating was fun. The kids were smiling. They found it hard to wait. Their tummies were too empty and needed filling. They had tried to share, and take turns and be patient — it hadn’t been easy. But we got there,’ says Vanessa.
Vanessa believes that barriers are broken when young people and adults cook together. Walls come down, children are so focused on the cooking on hand that they start to open up and relax and talk freely. Vanessa’s new cookbook The Fearless Kitchen encourages parents to bring their children into the kitchen and bond through cooking together.
‘Food is an experience and a way to broaden horizons. My recipes are appropriate for the whole family. I believe in expanding kids’ palates and pushing their boundaries in a safe, encouraging and non-judgmental way through involving them in the process of cooking,’ says Vanessa.
The Fearless Kitchen is wider than that, though: the preparing and sharing of food is a communal experience. The recipes here are designed to bring family, friends and flatmates together to have fun in making and then eating them.Vanessa had a totally different experience cooking on the reality TV programme MasterChef in 2013 where she was scrutinised, and criticised, both professionally and personally, but she turned her experience into a positive one and created her company The Fearless Kitchen where she hosts cooking classes for corporations and children, all with the same goal — to break barriers.
The Fearless Kitchen features recipes from the variety of countries Vanessa has travelled to, but the place that stole her heart was South East Asia, where the flavours still find their way into her dishes, peeking up to remind her of her colourful life as a nomad.
From Indonesian Soto Ayam, to Calzone Pizza Pockets, Crispy Pork Dumplings and Blackberry and Dark Chocolate Cheesecake, The Fearless Kitchen is full of fresh, seasonal and delicious recipes designed for the family to make together.
‘Food is fuel, but food is so much more than that. It is about community and family. It is about bringing people together, about engagement, chatter, laughter. It is about the teaching of patience and manners. Food will be with us forever —embrace it.’ — Vanessa Baxter