Developing the next generation of Kiwi chefs

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When 26 Waikato high school cookery teachers donned their aprons to become students for a day at Wintec, the heat was on to bring up their cookery skills to pass on to their students.

Chair of the local HETANZ (Home Economics Teachers Association of New Zealand) Heather Dixon, worked with Wintec hospitality team manager Peter Radojkovich to organise the day. She says opportunities for intensive training are invaluable and respond to the shortage of tech and cookery teachers by upskilling other teachers who now teach these subjects.

“Going to Wintec is the best day of the year for our teachers.

“There is a serious shortage of teachers in this field and we now have a mix of ‘old school’ home economics teachers and new ones who are trained in other subject areas.

“We want higher level learning and these learning days help pull everyone up to the same level. They set a benchmark and set standards, and this sets a standard for our students.”

Heather, a Cambridge High School teacher for more than 40 years, sees the value of teaching practical skills like cookery as essential to pathway careers and encourage cooking as a positive lifestyle choice.

“At a secondary school level we are helping students who want to become tomorrow’s chefs more workplace ready – if they are well prepared they get an edge in the workplace.

“It might not be their career, it might be the job that gets them to where they want to be, and many will work in hospitality to fund their studies.

“We’re also seeing a new generation of students whose parents don’t know how to cook and they don’t know where their food comes from. By learning cookery at school, our students go home and make a meal from real ingredients and often discover it can be faster than cooking from packets.”

Wintec’s Peter Radojkovich and Shannon Katipa are passionate about developing relationships with the region’s high schools and say training the teachers has far-reaching benefits.

“These training days develop the relationship we have with our schools in the Waikato area by addressing the need for teachers to upskill,” says Peter.

“It was awesome to see 26 teachers take up the opportunity, it was a fun day, everyone enjoyed themselves and gained new skills and a better understanding of cookery.

“I’m hopeful that the skills and knowledge they take away will also assist these teachers in developing the next generation of kiwi chefs.”

The upskilling day attracted teachers from Hamilton, Tauranga, Mt Maunganui, Tongariro, Te Awamutu, Te Kuiti, Matamata and Cambridge.

Shannon tutored the teachers through the intricacies of hollandaise, escalopes and consommé.

“A highlight for me was seeing the teamwork and networking developing between schools, and the looks on their faces when they sat down to eat the lunch they had just prepared.”

“The biggest message I have for teachers is to always have fun, love what you do. That energy will rub off on the students and the experience will become more authentic.”

As well as teaching the teachers, Wintec School of Hospitality also opens its doors to hundreds of tertiary and secondary school students who compete in Culinary Fare in July. This annual cookery competition attracts high school teams from across the North Island. This year saw record entries with more than 510 entries. Waikato Diocesan School for Girls took out the Waikato Top School Award, while Te Awamutu College took home the National Secondary School Culinary Challenge Team Award.

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