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Chef Relishes New Career

Chef Relishes New Career

Grant Sipeli has worked at many jobs but cooking at Terroir, one of the world’s most high-ranked vineyard restaurants, rates very highly with the newly-graduated chef.

Born in Auckland to Nuiean parents, Grant calls Wellington, and in particular the Kapiti coast, home. But with the parents of his partner Jo in Hawke’s Bay, the couple have been living “on and off” in Napier for the last 12 years.

Grant has always enjoyed food and grew up helping his mother cook the family meals. Supported and encouraged by Jo and her mother, he took the opportunity to enrol for EIT’s Diploma in Professional Chef Practice. Excelling in his studies, he topped his class last year and was joined by family and friends to celebrate his recent graduation.

“I think graduating is a huge achievement,” he says, “one of the biggest in my life. The whole family is absolutely chuffed.”

The 55-year-old started chef training two years ago. Before that he had taught at-risk youth, worked in a cheese factory and as a scuba diving instructor and for six years he was a printer and production planner in a Wellington business he co-owned with Jo.

“This has been a complete change of direction,” he says of his new career, which has included cooking at the Westshore Hotel, Dish Catering and the Boat Ramp while studying at EIT.

Head of School for the Faculty of Humanities, Arts and Trades, Jenny Robertson says Grant was a wonderful role model for younger students in his class. Reliable, conscientious and hardworking, he was generous with his time and expertise and was constantly helping classmates with assignments or practical cooking techniques.

“In his second year, he was asked to be a learning facilitator for the Hawke’s Bay Secondary Schools Trades Academy’s hospitality class. He took on this role with great enthusiasm and offered the students not only practical assistance but also mentoring and motivation to ensure they completed and passed their course.”

Grant values the opportunity to work the summer season as a wood fire chef at the Craggy Range restaurant.

“It’s an absolute privilege to be working at Terroir,” he says with quiet pride. “The experience I am gaining from the skilled chefs is invaluable.”

Grant and Jo experienced the fine dining experience for themselves with a meal out at the Tukituki River valley winery.

“It was superb, both for the front of house service and the food.”

Working as a chef at Terroir, he says, is no less rewarding.

“I begin work in the morning when the birds are singing and I look around at the beautiful gardens which supply the kitchen with herbs and vegetables. The hours are long and it’s hard work but it’s worth every moment.”

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