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Let me introduce myself - I am Rita, founder and owner of My Home Chef cooking school, a chef, foodie, wife, mum, daughter, sister, and of course - teacher! My Romance with food started 40 years ago in the family kitchen.

The memory of my grandmother’s hand touching me gently, the smell of dumplings still cooking in the pot, the taste of vinegar and strong spicy onion, the bubbling sound of a stewing pot. This is how my love story with the kitchen, creation and cooking begins. From a young age I would sit in the kitchen while my grandmother was cooking the family meals. Since both my parents were working, my grandmother was responsible for making dinners and keeping an eye on the mischievous and energetic little girl. My job was to not get into too much trouble, and to lick the bowl.

I always thought I’d become an artist or a painter as being creative was always what I was drawn to and I studied art and painting in my early life. At the age of 31 when I moved to Christchurch from the warm Israeli spring being plunged into the midst of a freezing winter, life took me on a different path… I swapped one art with another - as my friend Ana likes to say “Cooking is Art you can eat!”

I have been cooking and preparing food since the age of 13, that was when my grandmother passed away and my younger sister was born. In an attempt to keep alive the memories of my grandmother who helped raise me, and of her cooking, I found myself spending more and more time in the kitchen.

My father would take me to the market on Friday afternoons. Growing up in a warm and vibrant country with sights of the “Mach’ne Yehuda” market in Jerusalem and its head-spinning diversity of smells, introduced me to a rich and colourful Mediterranean culture, challenging the foodie within me. The familiar sounds of the buses and smells of the market food were a fascinating adventure of colours, smells and sounds. You could buy anything your heart desired: fruits, vegetables, baked good and sweets - all vied for my attention.… In particular, I liked going to the fish stall and buying the Carp fish my mother used to stuff for Passover and New Year Holidays. Seeing the stall owner catch the live fish and stun it with a swift blow, was simultaneously a terrifying and captivating experience. I will always remember that day when mom brought live fish home from the market and temporarily let them swim in the family bath tub.

Since then I cooked for my friends, family, and then for my husband and my children.

After moving to New Zealand, I decided to use my lifelong knowledge and professional skills from CPIT (Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, now ‘Ara’) in Christchurch to become a qualified chef, working for seven years in the hospitality industry. During that time I was contacted by a lady who was recovering from cancer treatment which drained her energy and made it difficult for her to cook for her family. She asked me to come and cook the family meals for her and this was the beginning of "My Home Chef". From cooking in people’s homes, to teaching community education to catering and supplying meals to the elderly community, “My home Chef” grew and changed.

Today I want to introduce to you my new project: "Two lands of Milk and Honey " - a new cook book about the modern Jewish cuisine, mixed with family stories and my journey from Latvia and Israel to NZ. The book will include nearly 100 family recipes. It is not just another cookbook, but rather a collection of recipes which tell a story, and reveal some of the Jewish traditions from East and West.

One more very important aspect of publishing this book is a programme I have been running for more than a year now for young adults with special-needs, where I deliver one-on-one cooking lessons to young individuals with disabilities or other special needs; I teach them life-skills and help them become independent and integrated in society. For every book sold, $5 will go towards that special programme, to build a dedicated fund for supporting young adults with special needs, who cannot afford these classes, or cannot get any other funding for this activity.

I came to realise that to fulfil my vision of a high quality book with mouth watering photos and all the family stories would take a large investment of both time and money and in order to make it happen I should think about pre-selling copies of the book. I chose to use a platform called Kickstarter - this is a very popular global 'crowdfunding' service, where you can start a project and ask people to support it.

The kickstarter campaign will start on the 19th of April 2018 and will run for 30 days. Throughout that time I will be releasing a recipe and a story from the book every other day, to give you a taste of what you can expect.

How can you support me? Come back here to see regular updates and yummy recipes Share my story, the blog and facebook page with all your friends Comment on my facebook page with any feedback and photos of your food creations.

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