Helen Rooney

Helen Rooney

Helen is the Choklits Chef. She also a mother of 3 children and is very well-known around Choklits for her love of cooking!

Over to Helen…

It’s such a privilege getting to do my job and I love it because I get to see the smiles appear on the children’s faces when they taste my food. Although I believe balance is the key to great meals and a healthy lifestyle I’m also really passionate about preparing meals for required needs such as people who hold specific religious beliefs or other dietary requirements like committing to eating vegan or vegetarian. It can be challenging but I really do love it.

I’ve been cooking since I was 17 and had a variety of different jobs including pastry cooking and cake decorating. As I’ve come to realise the downside of high amounts of cheap additives in food, like sugar in treats and sweets, I’ve come to enjoy my job as the Choklits Chef much more. A daily focus on clean eating and nutritional food does give me a lot of satisfaction.

Part of the skill of any educator is the art of taking complex subjects like nutrition and distilling them down to simple rules the children (or students) can follow and use to refine their ongoing behaviours. What that has meant for me in the Choklits kitchen is the introduction of our no sugar, no packet policy. We buy almost nothing in packets (i.e. pre-made) and we don’t buy sugar at all, so basically everything gets made completely from scratch.

Since eliminating packets and sugar we continued to work on our food curriculum which lead to the trial and eventual introduction of our Plant to Plate program. Most children love and are very keen to learn so it’s amazing to see how quickly even the fussiest eaters start loving their food when they are involved in the plating and raising of their own crops. There’s lots more information including videos on our Plant to Plate program on our sustainability page here and more information on the communications section of this website here if you’d like to know more.

Another part of my job as the Choklits Chef is to communicate with the parents and answer any food and diet-related queries they have. One of the most popular questions I get from parents is how to make slice and cake taste good without sugar. Parents also often ask me for recipes that they can cook at home for the rest of their families too. To make it super easy for our community to take a little piece of Choklits home with them I wrote a cookbook called “Cooking at Choklits” where I share many of the recipes and dishes I serve at the centre. You can get your own copy for free right here.

Lentil bolognese has just recently become my new favourite meal to cook for the children. At first, I couldn’t believe how the grated carrot and zucchini changed the texture of the meal but I’ve now added lentils to my own diet as they are delicious to eat when prepared the right way.

When I’m not at Choklits I enjoy relaxing with my family and helping out at the local football club which I’m a member of with their catering and functions.

It just makes me so happy when the children come down to tell me that they loved lunch. I think it’s wonderful they come and speak to me and that I’m making a difference in their lives at such a young age and having an impact. As you could imagine, I get lots of feedback from the children about the food I prepare and make. I have to say that the moments that give me the most joy are when the children tell me things like “you make the best food ever Helen!” That brings a smile to my face every time.

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