One of New Zealand’s most loved chefs, Michael Van de Elzen, together with his wife Belinda, who is also a qualified chef, have opened a farm-to-fork experience; The Good From Scratch Cookery School, on their life-style property near Muriwai, less than 40 minutes from Auckland. The school is an embodiment of the Van de Elzen’s combined philosophy; food is best when it’s prepared from scratch.
Michael is well-known to Kiwis, having written five cookbooks and having starred on a number of television shows including the upcoming Eat Well For Less on TVNZ 1. He has developed his Good From Scratch brand over the past six years, partnering with a number of companies including Green Meadows Beef, Weetbix, Engel Fires, Grove Avocado Oil and Watties’ Good Taste Company, to name a few. His latest cookbook for children is also called The Good From Scratch Kids Cookbook.
Belinda is also a trained chef, and together they’ve run many successful restaurants including the award winning Molten, Food Truck Garage and Boy and Bird.
Michael is calling it a ‘dream come true’, with the Good From Scratch Cookery School being over 20 years in the making. “The initial thought was conceived when Bee and I were working in a small luxury hotel in an Irish village called Dundrody. What made this award-winning hotel such a success was that the majority of the produce cooked for its guests came from its own gardens. Both Bee and I knew then that this was what we wanted to create in New Zealand.”
The first step to turn their dream into reality, was the Van de Elzen’s purchase of a farm in the beautiful Muriwai Valley, in 2015. Set on 15 acres of land, they’ve developed the farm to now house chickens, cattle, an orchard, greenhouse and kitchen gardens, where their focus is; to share in the simplicity of creating flavoursome dishes from scratch, including gathering and picking seasonal produce, right at the doorstep of the cookery school. The classes will take full advantage of all that the farm offers as well as local in-season ingredients from neighbouring farms.
“After five years of planning, building and planting, it’s an incredible moment for us to finally be opening, seeing the fruits of our labour,” says Belinda. “Whether it’s been fencing on the farm, landscaping the carpark, working with the builders or the planting of 150 fruit trees, or the development of The Good From Scratch Cookery School website, there has always been something happening, inching us closer to opening day. To finally be able to welcome the public into our space and share with them the knowledge we have is truly amazing.”
Michael agrees, “It certainly has been an insane five years and to realise our dream together is very special. Bee shares my passion of preparing food from scratch and has supported me immensely on my journey to educate New Zealanders, especially children, about healthy eating and showing people how easy and cheap it is to cook a healthy meal. The Good From Scratch Cookery School will help us further to deliver that message, we are itching to get started.”
Belinda is full of praise for the support of the local communities they live in.
“We honestly couldn’t have done this without the love, support and enthusiasm from our neighbours particularly, and the wider Murawai community. From teaching us about animal care through to helping pull us out of ditches, to fencing and the sharing local knowledge – we’ve been welcomed with open arms. It’s such a warm and caring community and Mike and I hope that The Good From Scratch Cookery School brings economic benefits to this area.”
The debut classes will be a fun-filled day or half day, that involve gathering the various ingredients from on the property and learning about that produce’s importance in the day’s menu. The preparation and cooking of the dishes will be a hands-on experience for the participants. Importantly, their labours will then be enjoyed together, with a selection of local wines, craft beers and homemade sodas.
Michael and Belinda care about where their food comes from. “The farm is a labour of love and we want to share this unique piece of paradise,” says Michael. “The ultimate aim is for people to walk away smiling, satisfied in the knowledge they’ve learnt and with what they’ve created but most importantly, nourished in the understanding that ‘good from scratch’ is essential for a healthy life”.