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Star culinary students on course for a winning career


Cooking is a very serious subject at Manurewa High School. They are the triumphant winners for the third time of the prestigious ServiceIQ Secondary Schools Excellence Award, at this year’s NZ Chefs National Salon in Auckland.

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The school’s talented culinary teams won gold in 2012 and 2013. With their repeat top performance this year, Daisy Chandra, Head of Learning Area Hospitality & Catering at Manurewa High School is pleased she had a special shelf built to display the grand trophy.

Their recipe for success is a lot of hard work and a professional attitude that wouldn’t be out of place coming from an Olympic athlete.

“We are here to win and we motivate our students to succeed,” says Daisy.  "All students are reminded that they need to focus and achieve high standards."

Daisy has been at the school for 16 years, and together with Hospitality teacher and trained chef Sara Blackburn, who started at the school in 2014, they help their students to successfully achieve ServiceIQ’s Level 2 and Level 3 Cookery, and Food & Beverage training programmes.

Creating award-winning dishes is all about maintaining motivation.

“Sara and I spend good quality time with our students, including one-on-one help when we can. They do their own research for the competition and we stand by as mentors. Some have a natural ability and catch on really fast, while others need a bit more assistance.”

So committed are the staff that they start early, finish late, work on the weekends, and lend a helping hand by giving students a lift home after an extra-long cooking class, or pick them up to take them to competitions.

Studying cooking at school is a perfect entrée to a rewarding career: over the years, about half of the Manurewa High School students have gone on to hospitality roles – as café and restaurant chefs, cooks in catering businesses, food and beverage managers and flight attendants. Many former students now working in industry, come back to help mentor the aspiring young chefs in the classes today.

While she graduated from Otago University with a Bachelor in Consumer & Applied Science and completed a Chef Scholarship at a tertiary institute, Daisy champions in-school and on-job hospitality training:

“It’s great. Our students gain important skills at school and we help them into jobs.”

The school also has a fantastic Gateway programme, where Level 3 Cooking students get six weeks of work experience with GateGourmet, the catering company supplying food to the airlines. Last year, four students graduated and gained full time roles with the catering business.

Manurewa High School hospitality students also gain valuable experience from working in the school’s full scale commercial kitchen that includes 24 work stations. The students refine their skills by cooking for the school’s café, major functions and events, and catering for staff and other guests in the 26 seat restaurant which operates in the second term.

“We just do it all because it’s part of what we teach our students,” says Daisy.

Full marks indeed.