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A Piece of Cake?


Every year for the past 10 years, they have practiced their recipes over and over, packed up the gear and gone to the big smoke to win gold in the national cooking championships. And every year they’ve come home empty-handed. Until now.

This year, St John’s College in Hastings, was the toast of New Zealand’s National Culinary Fare winning a trove of gold medals, and the icing on the cake - supreme winner with the ServiceIQ New Zealand Secondary Schools Excellence Award.

St John’s Culinary Art teacher, Craig Ireland, said that while his students have won silver and bronze and got tantalizingly close to gold in the past, the precious medal had remained elusive.

“We are ecstatic,” says Craig. “I have been taking students to these competitions for ten years and a gold medal, let alone overall winner, is very rare and hard to come by.”

Their sensational 2015 tally is seven gold and two silver medals.

The secret recipe for their success was the four “students’ dedication and talent”. Craig says they “practised for three months, two or three times a week, so they were just really prepared to put in the time it takes.”  

Salon judges were generous with compliments on the big competition day: “One judge, who has about 30 years’ industry expertise, said they wouldn’t have been able to ice a cake as beautifully as our student did in just 60 minutes,” says Craig.

Back in class, the star performers are perfecting their skills to gain ServiceIQ’s National Certificate in Cookery Level 2.

“The experience they have gained will help them grow as young adults, start their culinary journeys and boost their culinary skills for future career options,” says Craig.


St John’s winning team of Year 11 and 12 chefs is:


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Sam Heaven
  • Gold in the gateaux class
  • Gold in pie class
  • Gold in live, icing a cake class
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Daniel Moss
  • Gold in soup class
  • Silver in pasta class


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Jakob Dawson
  • Gold in soup class
  • Silver in battle of the burger class
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Daniel Kelly
  • Gold in battle of the burger class
  • Silver in omelette class

  • ServiceIQ offers a range of hospitality training programmes, at school and on-job, to help people upskill and build an exciting career in a commercial kitchen.
  • For further information on ServiceIQ’s Gateway School cookery programme click here. And to find out how to become a ServiceIQ Apprentice Chef, click here.