It was the night before Christmas when Taupō’s Ploughmans Restaurant lost its sous chef and the kitchen hand was “thrown in at the deep end” to help serve customers in the busy high season.
19-year-old Ben Brown had plenty of experience at the restaurant making desserts, prepping food and washing dishes, but now he had to step up to the plate and start cooking.
It was a full-on busy time with over 150 diners on some nights, says Ben. “It was really hard, but once I got the hang of everything, it was a piece of cake. I actually enjoy a busy, potentially stressful situation. I just get going, get into a rhythm and before you know it, the night’s over.”
The cool-headed junior passed his trial by fire with panache. Even though it’s a world away from the computer animation job he once dreamed of, he’s inspired and excited by the prospect of cooking for a career.
On the strength of his debut performance, Ben accepted an offer from his boss and Ploughmans Restaurant co-owner Louisa Redward-Keehan, to complete a ServiceIQ chef’s apprenticeship.
“I weighed up the opportunity for a month and I’m really pleased I made the right decision,” says Ben. “It’s fun and I’m learning a lot. They’ve always looked after me and now they’re helping me to craft a career.”
The ServiceIQ New Zealand Cookery Apprenticeship takes 36 months to complete and leads to two nationally recognised qualifications. It is designed to give talented Kiwis the professional skills for a career in New Zealand’s growing hospitality industry, where there is a huge shortage of qualified chefs.
The extensive programme menu is broken into bite-size categories in order for trainee chefs to be able to thoroughly develop, practice and perfect their culinary knowledge and expertise to the high standards required in a commercial kitchen.
Over time and with mentoring and guidance from senior chefs or supervisors, upcoming chefs learn to master the art and professional skills needed to create delicious soups, sauces, stocks, breads, poultry, meat and vegetables. They’ll also discover how to cook classic and highly complex dishes to perfection and plate them in style, from delicious amuse-bouches, entrees, mains and sides to delicate desserts, cakes, and pastries.
For Ben, a major highlight is being able to learn at the hands of the restaurant’s new head chef, Wayne Martin, who brings years of experience working in restaurants around the world.
“He is a great inspiration,” says Ben. “I’ve already learned so much about different types of food, ways of cooking and creating different dishes. I really enjoy cooking for other people, and I love being able to go home and share what I’ve learned with my family and friends. It’s great to see the smiles on their faces.”