Where did your passion for working with food originate?
Both my mother and grandmother were wonderful cooks (and I liked to eat). So, from a very early age, I developed a passion for food. I can remember when I was at Primary School, I always enquired what was for dinner before leaving for school in the morning. I think my mother was quite thrilled by her bud ding gourmet, except when she discovered that I had been swapping her beautifully made sandwiches for tomato sauce numbers made by my best friend, Terry Lee.
How did you first become involved in the hospitality industry?
I was a musician when I left school and needed money to make ends meet, so I took a part time job washing dishes in a restaurant. I soon found myself helping the cooks more and more. Whilst the standard of food was pretty awful, I enjoyed it. Then my brother Don, who was a waiter in Wellington's only decent restaurant, The Coachman, shouted me a meal for my birthday. I was hooked! I still remember what I ate - Chicken Liver Pate, Duckling a l'Orange and Chocolate Soufflé, which may seem rather mundane now. But, compared to frozen Prawn Cocktails, Deep Fried Chicken Maryland and Peach Melba made with canned peaches and bought raspberry sauce, it was pretty revolutionary stuff. And, when lack of talent eventually won out in the music business, I began working - first of all at The Coachman.
What differences did you find between being a chef/restaurateur to having your own TV show?
The main difference was being recognised on the street - keeping in mind that TV still involved cooking, so it wasn't as if I was changing career paths. Although, my peers felt that I had sold out, keeping in mind that I was an upmarket restaurateur/chef at the time. Interestingly, when I left "Healthy, Wealthy & Wise" seven years later, most of them applied for the job.
Did you always intend to develop a career as a television/celebrity chef?
No, it was just right time right place. As I was the first ever Australian chef on commercial prime time TV, there wasn't the celebrity chef cult happening. So, no, it hadn't ever entered my head until Gavan Disney asked me whether I would like to be on TV - late at night in my restaurant at the time, Memories of the Mediterranean. I told him to p... off and ring me when he was sober. Amazingly, he did and my job on "Healthy, Wealthy & Wise" started.
What are your favourite recipes and why?
I like flavour, so any recipes with lots of guts. I also, as most viewers will tell you, do have bit of a penchant for certain ingredients - chillies, garlic, anchovies and olives.
Why is it important to get kids involved in cooking from an early age?
So that they learn about good food and learn some basic ways to feed themselves, rather than growing up dependent on take away shops and the like.
What is some advice you would give to someone seeking a career as a chef?
You must have a passion for food and keep in mind that it's bloody hard work and, certainly at the beginning, there are few kudos. One of the problems at the moment is that various cooking game shows paint being a chef as glamorous, which it certainly isn't. But, it can be a very rewarding career with, amongst other things, a great opportunity to travel.
Please tell us about your family.
My wife Ruth looks after the nitty gritty stuff for the show including show rundowns, website and research. Our daughter Charlotte, 11, loves cooking and has been appearing on the show since she was 3. She also loves basketball.
What is your favourite holiday destination and why?
I love Paris for the food and wine experience, but don't ever enter any restaurant that has a Menu Touriste out the front. I also like it because it has a style and charm all of its own - particularly now that the Parisiennes have actually discovered that they need English speaking tourists.
Are you working on any new projects at the moment - can you tell us what they are?
Yes I am... and no I can't.
What are your top 5 tips for parents wanting to provide healthy eating and lifestyle habits for their families?
- Instil into your children the importance of a balanced diet.
- Vegetables & fruit play an important role in that balanced diet. So, if you have to, experiment with different vegetables & fruit until you find those that they like.
- Encourage them to at least try most things, but don't force them to eat something they obviously don't like.
- I think they should be introduced to restaurants/cafes at an early age, for example Yum Cha is a great start. Always take plenty of things for them to play with.
- Last but not least, it's amazing what kids will eat if they have played a part in the cooking process, so get them into the kitchen ASAP. But, don't ever get upset if they lose interest half way through & wander off - that's just part of the process, so just grin & bear it.
Iain Hewitson (Huey) is Australia's most watched television cook and has owned and operated many restaurants over the past 40 years. New Zealand born Huey arrived in Melbourne in 1971 and since then has enjoyed a diverse career as a chef; traveling to some of the most picturesque regions in Australia and overseas.
Huey's easy to follow recipes are a hit with fans and, as he says, "My job is to get the viewers out of the pre-prepared food sections and take away shops and into the kitchen where they belong". His aim is to encourage home cooks to try interesting new ingredients and experiment with same. He presents simple and tasty recipes that are easy to recreate for the family at home.
Over the past 20 years Huey has been a TV regular with TV shows including "Healthy, Wealthy & Wise", "A Cook's Journey", "Huey's TV Dinner", "Never Trust a Skinny Cook" and "Huey's Cooking Adventures", which was Australia's highest rating daytime TV show. "Huey's Kitchen" is currently aired on weekdays at 4pm on Network 10.
In addition to his television programs, Huey has written eight cookbooks including his latest "Huey's Bloody Good Recipes".
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Get Ahead Kids® Sep/Oct 2012