My mother was not a fabulous cook. While we did often have home baked goods, they were never anything too sumptuous. But what she lacked in intuition for flavour combinations she made up for with enthusiasm. Despite this, many of my happiest childhood memories are centred around food and family dinners or at our infamous Scrabble afternoon teas all played out on our sprawling teak dining table.
But how do we instil that sense of family traditions in the younger generations? Pull them into the passion for food and cooking, that’s how, says Maitland’s Cunning Culinarian.
Otherwise known as Alina Mackee, she helps people of the Hunter do just that with her philosophy that you are never too young to know everything (in the kitchen that is).
Alina has been cooking and catering in the Maitland area for most of her life, she’s somewhat of a culinary celebrity.
Having previously run cooking classes for both adults and children out of a regional hall, now with a dedicated space and commercial kitchen at her disposal the classes are getting more creative.
When you step into the kitchen of the High Street café that doubles as a cooking school you really feel like you are back in Alina’s grandma’s kitchen.
‘As we now have our own little nook in the heart of Maitland, we are bringing the classes home where they belong’, Alina said.
For those that have a mini chef in their family, Alina runs children’s cooking classes after school and during school holidays, and she is ramping up the adult cooking classes, too.
In the kids cooking classes, Alina teaches the kids how to make their own pizzas from kneading the dough to creating the sauce and showing how to balance the flavours all by taste.
‘I grew up cooking with my Grandma, she wanted to make sure I knew the kitchen basics: making béchamel from scratch, pastry from scratch and cakes of course.
‘It was when I started working with Dad in his kitchen that I started to get my eye in. I was always in awe of Dad how he could know by sight just the right amount of each ingredient to put into his cooking.
‘Now all these years later I realise I am just like him, I measure with my eyes in my cooking so it has come full circle’.
Alina says heritage plays a big role in the philosophy behind the business she runs with her partner Chef George. He also draws a lot on his South American heritage and is influenced heavily by his mother’s cooking.
But what good is a secret family recipe that no one can enjoy?
It is this sentiment that has inspired the Peruvian-Chilean chef to share his family recipes with the people of Maitland in the form of a South American cooking class.
If you can get yourself into one of his classes, I’m told he will let you in on the secrets to his amazing Peruvian spiced chocolate pods.
I have it on good authority that these little numbers are divine, similar to a chocolate mousse (but creamier) and spiced with coffee and chilli.
‘We have a nice foodie community here in Maitland’, Alina said. ‘We don’t mind collaborating for the greater good, we just want to be true to our passion and help give Maitland a food scene to be proud of’.
Alina says the crew at Cunning Culinarian are also passionate about coffee and big believers that a nice warm mug of coffee is often the cure to any less than fabulous morning. Here, Here.
Story by Tess Campbell.