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Finalists Announced for ServiceIQ Champion Apprentice Chef 2017 Competition

From Auckland to Queenstown, eight great young chefs will feel the heat of the competition kitchen when they battle it out to win the coveted title of ServiceIQ Champion Apprentice Chef of the Year at the NZ Hospitality Championships in Auckland on Sunday 30 July.

New Zealand’s toughest and most exciting competition for apprentice chefs is a fantastic opportunity for ambitious young culinary stars to gain recognition and boost their career.

The title winner will travel to the world-famous Melbourne Food & Wine Festival in 2018, a prize worth around $3,000, while all finalists will receive a prize pack from, and become members of the prestigious NZ Chefs’ Association. It’s the perfect entrée to a successful career. 

Being a top chef has become one of the most sought-after professions in the hospitality industry, and many top restaurants discover and develop the skills and craft of the best young people through a ServiceIQ Cookery Apprenticeship.

ServiceIQ Chief Executive Dean Minchington, says the award recognises the outstanding achievement of aspiring chefs “who learn and earn in a real, commercial kitchen with all the demands and pressures for high standards that that fast-paced environment brings”.

He adds that apprenticeships are a ready-made recipe for New Zealand’s chef shortage.

“More and more young people are gaining the vital skills on-job with an apprenticeship and this can help alleviate New Zealand’s shortage of professional chefs by growing the talent pool,” says Dean.

“The best way to get an education, experience and earn at the same time is with an apprenticeship,” says Dean. “New Zealand’s urgent need for professional chefs with the experience to serve a booming industry that shows no signs of slowing, calls for more people with proven skills and experience. Today’s great apprentice chefs will be the success of tomorrow’s hospitality industry.”

All finalists are crafting careers with ServiceIQ’s New Zealand Cookery Apprenticeship programme.

The ServiceIQ Champion Apprentice Chef 2017 competition will be held at the NZ Hospitality Championships on Sunday 30 July at the Logan Campbell Centre, ASB showgrounds, Auckland.

So who are New Zealand’s next culinary stars? Where do they cook? And what inspires them? From Auckland to Queenstown, the finalists stepping up to the plate are:


Hometown heroes go head-to-head in NZ’s Apprentice Chef of the Year competition 

Auckland has the best food scene in the country says Matthew Andreas, finalist in the prestigious ServiceIQ Champion Apprentice Chef 2017, to be held at the NZ Hospitality Championships in Auckland on Sunday 30 July.

He believes this might come down to the fact a large population creates a higher demand for places for people to eat and there are so many places for young chefs to do apprenticeships at.

Matthew enjoyed cooking at a very young age and when he discovered that he could do it as a career he decided to become a chef. Inspired by Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay, he got his start working as a kitchen hand. He found it fun and exciting and he learned one of his first and most important cooking skills that he still uses everyday: working in a clean and tidy area is the best way to work at the Howick Club.

As an apprentice chef, Matthew loves the fact that he’s working full time, not stuck in a classroom and by the time he qualifies he will have three years’ worth of work experience. 

When it comes to culinary heroes, head chef for Clooney Restaurant Jacob Kear is someone Matthew looks up to. In fact, Matthew wants to emulate his hero and travel the world in his career. Another ambition is to lead a team of chefs into earning a Michelin star. 

Mathew’s favourite ingredient is garlic because he loves the aroma and flavour and he uses it in most dishes. There’s a high chance of it making an appearance when he competes in this, his first ever competition.

Matthew recommends ServiceIQ’s Cookery Apprenticeship to others as he believes it has advantages over culinary school, including learning on the job and real world work experience that gives people like him a unique selling point when applying for jobs in the future. 

For Sami Mansur, Auckland’s other finalist in the ServiceIQ Champion Apprentice Chef 2017, the city is such a bustling place that working here lets him learn to cook in a busy kitchen for many guests. 

It’s not just the pressure that’s so exciting. Thanks to Auckland’s many different ethnicities, he is able to discover how to create all kinds of flavours and dishes from many different cultures. 

From a young age, Sami admired chefs. He was fascinated at how a passionate chef could conjure up a delicious dish seemingly in a matter of minutes. He wanted to be like them. 

He got his break when he was working as a waiter in a busy café. One day the kitchen hand didn’t show up for work so Sami volunteered to help out. From kitchen hand duties, he ended up assisting the chefs with a la carte work during busy periods, and he decided he’d like to be doing this full-time.

Sami is completing his apprenticeship at Auckland’s Waipuna Hotel & Conference Centre, where he thrives on developing his skills in a real commercial kitchen with its pressures and time constraints. 

For all the culinary lessons’ he’s learned, he’s never lost his love for a good pancake. As a child, he would cook them with his family on Sunday mornings and he’s more than happy to whip up a stack now. 

When it comes to inspiration, Sami admires Jacopo Crosti, head chef at Auckland’s celebrated Beirut restaurant, and formerly of Cassia restaurant. It was his experience as a guest at Beirut that showed Sami how amazing fine dining can be.

One day he hopes to open his own restaurant, and beyond that, produce his own range of ingredients. Speaking ingredients, mushrooms are his favourite. He’s also a big fan of Pho, Vietnamese noodle soup.

Sami’s currently focused on the ServiceIQ Champion Apprentice Chef event and intends to give it his all, especially since it will be his very first competitive outing as a chef.

ServiceIQ’s Cookery Apprenticeship suits Sami because it gives him flexibility in learning and hands-on practical experience backed with solid theory. The perfect recipe for an apprentice chef.


Wairarapa apprentice chef adds local flavour to prestigious national awards

The Wairarapa may be a small region but it’s great place to be an apprentice chef because of the excellent fresh local produce, says Natalie Brasier, finalist in the prestigious ServiceIQ Champion Apprentice Chef of the year 2017 to be held at the NZ Hospitality Championships in Auckland on Sunday 30 July. 

“Our community is also very supportive of local businesses including restaurants,” says Natalie.

She was inspired to become a chef cooking at a very young age under the inspiring guidance of her mother. From here her passion grew and grew. Another inspiration is her boss, Wayne De La Barca, head chef at Iberia Restaurant in Masterton. 

Natalie’s first job was kitchen hand at Iberia and from there she worked her way up encouraged by the passionate approach of Wayne.

The first cooking skill she learned was baking which began in the kitchen with her mother and she continues to use these early lessons in her career. The thing she loves most about being an apprentice chef is constant learning. Whether it’s to do with cooking, business skills or learning new things about herself. There’s always something new to discover. 

Natalie’s favourite ingredient is salmon and her favourite dish is carbonara pasta because “it’s very simple and great to share with friends and family”.

Top New Zealand chef Ben Shewry with his world-famous Melbourne restaurant Attica, is her ideal, says Natalie. “He uses local produce and has quite an unorthodox way of cooking. His style and love of food is truly inspirational.”

Natalie’s greatest ambition is to one day own her own restaurant. But before that she’s very focused on the ServiceIQ Apprentice competition. It’s her first time competing so she admits to some nerves but she’s also excited for the experience and what she can learn from it.

She recommends ServiceIQ’s Cookery Apprenticeships to others because of the support she gets. She singles out her ServiceIQ tutor Chris Treacher for always pushing her to be a better chef, to think differently and really excel.


Is Wellington the culinary capital? Two local Apprentice Chefs compete with the rest of the country in New Zealand’s top cookery awards.

It’s the diverse and expanding hospitality scene that makes Wellington the perfect place to be an apprentice chef, says Geordie McLaughlin, finalist in the prestigious ServiceIQ Champion Apprentice Chef 2017, to be held at the NZ Hospitality Championships in Auckland on Sunday, 30 July.

With so many different dining styles to choose from and so many different cuisines on offer, it could be quite intimidating. But, says Geordie, it’s very accessible and it “encourages you to try and explore new things”.

Starting out as a kitchen hand in his first job was an eye-opener. The inspiring chefs at Wellington’s famous White House restaurant showed him that food could be an art, “a medium for thoughts and ideas”. 

After coaching and encouragement from the head chef and executive chef, he became an apprentice. Today, Geordie is lucky enough to train under his culinary hero, chef Paul Hoather at multi-award winning Wellington eatery and bar, Charley Noble

Two early lessons during his apprenticeship have lasted the test of time: making high quality stocks and ravioli. He still uses both of those today, just the way he was shown.

Geordie’s favourite ingredient is salt, and he points to preserved lemons as an example. 

“All of the best parts of citrus are intensified and made aromatic with the addition of salt. 

Salt is the foundation,” he says. 

His ultimate ambition is to create dishes that bring happiness to others and opening his own restaurant one day will enable him to use his creativity and bring people together. 

He recommends ServiceIQ’s Cookery Apprenticeship to other aspiring chefs because “learning hands-on is the best way to learn, plus you can pick-up on other important knowledge such as time management and interpersonal skills,” says Geordie. 

For Elysia Young, Wellington’s other finalist in the ServiceIQ Champion Apprentice Chef event, the Wellington region is an inspiring place to be an apprentice chef because there are so many great restaurants, and being just up the road on the Kapiti Coast is even better, says Elysia. 

“You’re near the city so you know what’s happening and get involved but you don’t have the pressure of being in the city the whole time,” she says.

Elysia was inspired to become a chef because of the opportunities to travel the world with cooking. 

Her journey got off to a great start when she got a kitchen hand job with award-winning Ruth Pretty Catering, while she was still at school. From washing dishes at 15 years-old, she was offered an apprenticeship with the company when she left school aged 16. 

Learning how to use a knife was one of the first things she mastered and uses every day in the kitchen. Elysia thinks that those skills can put you a cut above. 

Now 20 years-old, she’s still determined to travel and learn from great chefs overseas to help her develop her own cooking. 

Italy may well be one of her first ports of call because pasta is her favourite ingredient. She loves the fact that it can be used to create so many different dishes. 

As an apprentice chef, Elysia enjoys the fact that there’s always so much to learn in the kitchen. 

Now she’s about to put everything she’s learned so far to the test as a first-time competitor in the up-coming ServiceIQ Champion Apprentice Chef 2017 cook-off. 

Elysia recommends the ServiceIQ Cookery apprenticeship to others because of its balance of theory and practical, plus strong guidance: “They want people to become passionate about cooking and achieve their best,” says Elysia.


Nelson’s recipe for success in New Zealand’s prestigious apprentice chef competition 

Nelson is a small community and that’s what makes it such a great place to be an apprentice chef, says Luke Hughes, finalist in the ServiceIQ Champion Apprentice Chef 2017 to be held at the NZ Hospitality Championships in Auckland on Sunday 30 July. 

“This community is friendly, supportive and always willing to lend a hand,” says Luke. 

Luke has always enjoyed cooking for as long as he can remember. At a very young age he spent time cooking and baking with his mother in the family kitchen. His next step was choosing to study Hospitality in school which provided the inspiration to become a chef.

From there, his very first job was in a small buffet restaurant doing the time-honoured job familiar to most aspiring chefs – kitchen hand. 

After that, Luke joined the Nelson’s famous Rutherford Hotel to begin his career as a chef.

Interestingly, the first skill he learnt was mastering the art of making mayonnaise. Knowing how to perfectly emulsify the ingredients is vitally important and something he still puts into practice today. 

As an apprentice chef, he loves the fact that he’s always learning and being challenged is often the best way to learn. 

When it comes to culinary heroes, Luke is lucky that he’s actually working in the same kitchen as his. The Rutherford sous chef Rodrigo Rost, is a constant source of inspiration for Luke, helping him improve his cooking and presentation skills.

Luke has a very clear career ambition as a chef. He says: “I just want to get really good at what I do to be able to create great tasting meals for everyone and anyone to enjoy.”

His favourite ingredient is cumin spice and he loves putting it in almost everything he makes so we can expect it to star when he competes in this, his first ever competition. 

Finally, Luke recommends doing a cookery apprenticeship with ServiceIQ because “it’s all about learning on the job, earning money while you learn, and best of all no big student loans holding you back”.


Canterbury Apprentice Chef to battle rest of the country at national culinary awards

Canterbury is the very best place in New Zealand to be an apprentice chef, says Nicholas Todd, finalist in the prestigious ServiceIQ Champion Apprentice Chef 2017 competition to be held at the NZ Hospitality Championships in Auckland on Sunday 30 July. 

The reason for that is that it’s the busiest city in the South Island where locals and tourists are always on the lookout for the best dining experiences.

Nicholas is a member of the New Zealand Defence Force. He is based at Burnham where he is completing his chef apprenticeship. 

They say that an army marches on its stomach, so choosing to become a chef for the force is probably a very good career move with very appreciative diners.

As a child, Nicholas loved watching cooking shows on television and this is where his passion began. 

His first job in hospitality was as a waiter. This took him into the kitchen first as a dish hand and then a kitchen hand, at his local tavern.

One of the most exciting things about being an apprentice chef is learning different cooking methods and new ways to create dishes that he’d never imagined were possible.

One early skill was learning how to make hollandaise sauce and it continues to serve him well. 

An absolute favourite ingredient is fresh basil. For this chef, the fragrant herb can be used in all kinds of dishes and always brings a beautiful flavour to the table.

Nicholas’s greatest ambition as a chef is to one day own his own restaurant. But in the mean time he’s focusing on the competition at hand. The ServiceIQ Champion Apprentice Chef is actually the sixth cooking competition he has entered. It’s an opportunity to do battle with other talented apprentices to decide the victor.


Will Queenstown Apprentice Chef be King at NZ’s Prestigious Culinary Competition?

Queenstown is the best place in New Zealand to be an apprentice chef, says Daniel Santos, finalist in the prestigious ServiceIQ Champion Apprentice Chef 2017 to be held at the NZ Hospitality Championships in Auckland on Sunday, 30 July. 

He believes there’s a simple reason for this: Queenstown’s hospitality industry is enormous and there’s a great variety of kitchens and chefs creating superb dishes in all styles. It’s culinary heaven for visitors and for apprentice chefs.

Daniel, who says his wife encouraged him to become a chef, started out working as a kitchen hand at Queenstown’s popular Homestead Restaurant at Walter Peak. It was here that his employer Justin Cohen, gave him a fantastic opportunity to begin training as a chef. 

One of the first cooking skills Daniel mastered was how to make great stock. It’s an essential foundation for so many dishes and is very much part of Daniel’s stock-in-trade today.

Being an apprentice chef suits Daniel perfectly because he can work, study and get paid at the same time. “I just love being able to learn on the job,” he says.

It’s probably no surprise that his local culinary hero is internationally celebrated chef Josh Emett, also the magic behind Rata, one of Queenstown’s and New Zealand’s most famous restaurants. Daniel admires Josh Emmet’s style and technical brilliance: “To be able to recreate his recipes, you have to have mastered a very high level of technique,” says Daniel.

Ultimately, Daniel wants to create a recipe book that combines his national heritage and his adopted country, best summed up as: “South American dishes with New Zealand flare.”

Being born close to the sea, it seems natural that prawns are Daniel’s favourite ingredient even though he could only enjoy them on special occasions due to their expense. It will be exciting to see if they appear in his special competition dish.

He recommends ServiceIQ’s cookery apprenticeship to others because through the 36-month programme, aspiring apprentices are challenged and given direction. He also thinks you get a great insight into what to expect when you have finished your apprenticeship because you get to see what a real kitchen is all about.

For more information, please contact ServiceIQ Marketing Manager Gary Bowering on: (04) 817 5303, 027-467 7441 or email: