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Apprenticeships. Ready-made recipe for New Zealand’s chef shortage


While there are not enough skilled chefs to meet demand from discerning diners, many restaurants are thinking ahead by training highly talented young cooks on-job with a chef’s apprenticeship.

Like many professions, skills are best learned when they are learned on the job.

With a chef’s apprenticeship, knowledge and skills are developed, honed and put to work in a real kitchen with real paying customers, and under the personal guidance from executive chefs. This perfect recipe leads to work-ready experience that can’t be replicated in a tertiary institution.

Currently, there are 311 up-and-coming chefs training on job in a variety of restaurants, from high end hotels to boutique eateries to popular brand name restaurants. These include: Auckland’s Soul Bar, Ruth Pretty Catering, Fleurs Place in Moeraki, The Hermitage at Mt Cook, the Intercontinental in Wellington, and Millennium Hotels & Resorts.

The programme of choice is ServiceIQ’s New Zealand Cookery Apprenticeship. It provides a broad menu of essential skills and knowledge, from vital basics to complex techniques, and is a proven approach that makes trainee chefs ready to meet the demands for high quality work in a fast-paced commercial kitchen.

Tamara Johnson started her career by completing the chef apprenticeship programme and winning the ServiceIQ Apprentice Chef of the Year 2013. Following stints in top hotel kitchens overseas, and as food co-ordinator on TV cooking shows ‘My Kitchen Rules’ and ‘Masterchef’, today she is Head Chef at Josh Emmett’s acclaimed Madam Woo restaurant in Auckland.


Tamara credits her ServiceIQ apprenticeship as the ideal entrée for a chef’s career:

“My apprenticeship didn’t set me up for Madam Woo, but it definitely helped by getting that experience so early on in my career,” she says. “It has given me an advantage over someone who has walked fresh out of a cooking school. I would say that a chef is more likely to hire you based on your experience level in the kitchen over years in a classroom.”

The government is convinced of the important role played by apprenticeships and has set aside $14.4 million for more apprenticeship training across several major sectors.

steven joyce 150pxTertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce said recently:

“A strengthening labour market, a rebuilt industry training system and improvements in school achievement are resulting in greater demand for apprenticeships, as young people rightly see them as a great way to get into, and stay in, a rewarding career.”

ServiceIQ CEO Dean Minchington says the government is taking apprenticeships very seriously indeed and is signalling real commitment to this highly effective, proven form of training for industry.

“I expect it will become even more important in the months and years to come in the hospitality industry which, as part of the tourism industry, is so vital to New Zealand’s economic success,” says Dean.

ServiceIQ offers three core hospitality apprenticeships covering catering, food & beverage and chef training that give new entrants to the industry the skills they need to build a career and benefit an employer.

The programmes are available to hospitality businesses that want to upskill talented employees with the potential to be great chefs.

Importantly, says Dean, this includes young entrants who have successfully completed a hospitality cooking programme at secondary school.    

“We want to support more young New Zealanders with a skill for great cooking and more employers in need of quality chefs. Our ideal is to see talented school leavers gain jobs in the industry where they can earn while they learn with an apprenticeship. It’s a proven approach for honing top skills that serve the employer, the employee and the customer.”  

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