When it comes to mealtime at the Rickit household, it’s often the kids in charge - and if 10 year old Oliver has anything to say about it, he’s at the chopping board making lasagne, curries...or shepherd’s pie, a dish he first made at age 6. “I’ve kinda just got it in my blood.” Inspired by his grandfather, who was a chef in the Airforce, Oliver is a shining example of what passion set on fire looks like at a young age. His passion for cooking knows no end, from foraging the local forests for nuts and mushrooms, to perfecting a roux and practicing his knife and presentation skills. Oliver is obsessed with the entire process of making delicious food from scratch. He talks about cooking with a knowledge, maturity and confidence of someone much older.
Oliver is quite clear on his future career, he wants to be a chef. This is what prompted him to enter the Garden to Table Root to Tip cooking competition
with his friend Nathan. The competition is designed to get kids inspired to cook creatively with seasonal fruits and vegetables whilst also minimizing
waste.When asked what would be his favourite food to make at his restaurant in the future he replied “pizza and flatbreads” without hesitation. Oliver
loves watching MasterChef and follows their movements and preparation techniques carefully. His skill has matured to the point where he has gotten
the base recipes down pat and is now trying out different combinations of flavours and getting creative.
Supporting him is his entire family, including his Mum Tracy. As a teacher at Hautapu School in Cambridge, she saw an opportunity to nurture Oliver’s love
of cooking while also contributing to the wider school community, so she established a garden on the school grounds. Together with Oliver’s friend
Nathan, they grow an impressive variety of vegetables and fruit, including celery, carrots, broccoli, gooseberries, pears, mandarins - and chickens
to help keep pests down. Managed by the Gardening Club on a small plot, they regularly share the produce with the school.
When Oliver entered the Root to Tip competition, Tracy realised this was the start of something bigger when he said “Mum, this is the first step!”
As the regional Waikato Root To Tip semi final winners, Oliver and Nathan headed to the national finals in Wellington on 3 August, after wowing the judges
with their falafel starter and their ‘forager’s loaf’ main, complete with nuts that they did in fact forage for. Their approach leading up to the finals
was to work on their knife skills and plating - all part of the valuable feedback they received from the judges. What’s Oliver’s top advice for ambitious
chefs? “If you’re stressed out or forgot something, take a breath.” Valuable advice for anyone we reckon.
From Tracy’s perspective, Oliver’s involvement in Garden to Table’s Root to Tip competition has had a big impact on
the wider family. As a family they are eating more fresh foods, trying new vegetables and ways to prepare them that minimise waste, shopping locally
and Tracy has been receiving some much needed help in the kitchen! As Tracy puts it, “cooking at a young age is an essential life skill.” She sees
the effect it has had on Oliver and is reassured that he will grow up to be an adult who can be confident in the kitchen and have a healthy attitude