Hawke’s Bay boasts a robust network of support systems to help new talent pursue professional cookery opportunities, says Gianetta Lapsley, EIT Hawke’s Bay’s Head of School for Tourism and Hospitality.
“There is amazing back-up in the region,” she enthuses, “particularly for high school students who show interest. Young people have many options, both in school and in the wider educational environment.”
Since joining EIT early last year, Gianetta has sought stronger relationships with organisations keen to harness and direct the region’s fledgling cooking talents. She and her team at EIT have been working closely with the New Zealand Chefs Association, the Hospitality Standards Institute and local secondary schools.
Gianetta has found it “very natural” to talk with the Hospitality Standards Institute.
“The relationship between the HSI and EIT has grown significantly, and one of the reasons for that is training advisor Glenn Fulcher’s appointment to Hawke’s Bay at the start of last year.
“Glenn is EIT’s liaison with HSI. He has helped forge a much closer relationship between our two organisations, and we recently collaborated on the regional round of the New Zealand Junior Hospitality Challenge 2009 which was sponsored by EIT and hosted on our campus.”
Gianetta says the event was a great success, with 40 high school students travelling from as far north as Tolaga Bay and as far south as Central Hawke’s Bay to use EIT’s well-equipped and professional kitchen facilities.
The students made quiches, blueberry muffins, fruit flan, a salmon main, a filled omelette, a New Zealand pork main and a pasta dish.
“It was a hotly contested cook-off,” says chief judge and president of the Central branch of the New Zealand Chefs Association Roger Dennis. “In the regional Secondary Schools Challenge, for example, there were only two or three points in it the whole way through.”
Roger believes the overall standard of entries has lifted as a result of training sessions run by association chefs with the support of the hospitality sector.
Playing a dynamic role in promoting and enriching training opportunities for interested youngsters who show promise, he has worked with EIT to offer Wednesday late afternoon training sessions for secondary school students aged 15-18.
Held on campus, the NZCA Central branch’s Junior Master Classes target youngsters interested in cooking competition and keen to improve their skills.
Most of those who participated in the Hawke’s Bay Junior Hospitality Challenge attend the training sessions. One, a 15-year-old newcomer to the event, was awarded two silver medals.
“They really shone with their commitment,” Mr Dennis says of these entrants.
A number of students taking part in the association’s training sessions were chosen to represent the region as Team Hawke’s Bay in the National Culinary Fare held in Auckland on 23-25 August, and a dinner was organised at EIT’s training restaurant Scholars to raise funds for those taking part in the event.
“I see the NZCA as an important national entity,” Gianetta says. “The local branch is very active in supporting professional cookery as a career for young people.”
EIT has also established a business relationship with HSI in running day release classes for Modern Apprentices. The tertiary institute took a very proactive role in pursuing the opportunity to be involved and was awarded a two-year contract which took effect in February this year.
“We have 15 apprentices who attend in two groups. We hope to see more young people enter in 2010 as we work with HIS locally during our student recruitment processes. We make referrals to each other’s education options based on what suits each applicant best.”
Liaising with high schools in Hawke’s Bay, EIT offers STAR (Secondary Tertiary Alignment Resource) courses. For some cooking students, this provides a staircase to the institute’s Diploma in Professional Culinary Arts.
Gianetta says EIT staff are very much centred on the local industry, and students benefit hugely from the tutors’ “magnificent networks” and the opportunity to work at regional hospitality highlights such as the Mercedes Benz Wine Award Dinner and Hawke’s Bay’s Great Long Lunch.
As another example of that, she points to Diploma in Professional Culinary Arts programme coordinator Grant McHenry as a very active NZCA member – “that’s helpful in terms of both organisations as well”.
With a background in the education sector, Gianetta has the overview on industry dynamics at national and political levels to allow the institute to capitalise on change.
The cross fertilisation that characterises Hawke’s Bay’s culinary training environment benefits everyone, and Gianetta is confident that it will continue to do so.