Food News, with Christine rutter

DO you care if your if your children grow up to be culinary bimbos who can't tell one takeaway from another?

Television chef Gary Rhodes does. As the father of two boys, the Cockney chef is a strong supporter of classroom cooking and wants to see the Government make it a compulsory part of the National Curriculum.

"It is a great shame that many schools don't teach cooking any more and it's left to mums and dads to pick up the pieces. My boys are taught about science using basic cooking techniques but it's not the same as making a delicious omelette or bread and butter pudding."

Gary, like many chefs, developed a fascination for cooking at a tender age, creating dishes for family and friends using ingredients lying around his parents' kitchen.

"I enjoyed experimenting with different textures and flavours," he said.

"In those early days, I didn't realise that cooking was to become my chosen career and it was only when I was in my teens that it really took off."

He believes you are never too young to start cooking.

"My boys, who are now seven and nine, began experimenting with foods and ingredients when they were as young as two or three. At that stage they were mainly helping with the preparing and mixing but now they've graduated to more complicated things and, with a little help, make dishes which the whole family can enjoy."

Only when children know the basics of cooking can good food emerge, he said. The veteran of five television series, Gary believes the more children know about cooking, the more quality food they will demand in the future.

Gary, who has won a Michelin star three times, has teamed up with the Tate and Lyle Information Service to create a glossy free cook booklet to encourage children to experience the joys of cooking. I've created simple ideas that children will enjoy baking and eating and I've chosen ingredients that they like.

"You won't find any garlic or chilli peppers here."

The recipes have all been created with children aged six and upwards in mind and appeal to different levels of ability.

And while many look tricky, they are actually child's play.

The recipes are simple and fun to prepare and range from almond shortbread and bunny biscuits to Strawberry Profiteroles and Yummy Truffles.

Gary said: "Children these days like to aim high and are keen to try quite adventurous ideas - especially things that they can serve up to their family for dinner."

He added: "Hopefully this booklet will encourage generations of youngsters, parents and carers to get cooking and get the kids into the kitchen."

Kids In The Kitchen is available free from the Tate and Lyle Information Service by sending an A4 SAE to KITK, PO Box 1, Basildon, Essex, SS15 6TZ.

Converted for the new archive on 14 July 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.