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Students win NZ’s supreme cooking award

Press Release from Central

Otago Polytechnic

21 August 2014

Otago Polytechnic Central students win NZ’s supreme cooking award

Beating 11 other top culinary institutes, the team from Cromwell representing Otago Polytechnic Central out-cooked and out-served all other comers to take the top prize at the Nestle Toque d’Or competition. The premier culinary award took place in Auckland on Monday night (August 18).

Ashleigh Kerr (Wanaka) picked up gold for her outstanding front-of-house performance while Erin Fenemor (Wanaka) and Emma Evans (Queenstown) were awarded silver for their kitchen skills. Their combined efforts resulted in the Supreme Award.

The two chef students were guided by Senior Chef Lecturer Roydon Cullimore while Ashleigh’s hospitality tutor was Trish Wilson. Mr Cullimore was delighted to see his students pick up New Zealand’s top award.

“The whole process with this team was collaborative. They all worked so well together which was key to the win. It’s important to me to allow students to go on their own journey and learn from it. Part of my philosophy is to respect, recycle reuse and reinvent – this encourages both sustainability and innovation.”

Hospitality Programme Manager Jo Brun says the award is New Zealand’s most prestigious and the team members will find the award and their medals will open doors to their future careers.

“The success of these young women (the competition is limited to those under 25) will provide them a wide range of career opportunities. They displayed all the behaviours a top team needs - ability to work together and communicate well, maintain composure, timing and superb work methods under the pressure of intense scrutiny,” says Ms Brun.

“We are absolutely delighted and excited for our team to have won. We are a very small campus, tucked away in the bottom of NZ and yet are able to achieve this top award. It proves you don’t need to be in a major city to get world class hospitality training.”

All three of the team are juggling their studies while working in busy hospitality industry jobs in Queenstown and Wanaka.

Emma Evans is originally from Hamilton and moved to Queenstown to do the Diploma in Professional Cookery (Level 5). She works at Saffron while she studies and completes the course this year.

“My ethos is free range organic and my end goal is to establish a self-sustaining zero carbon footprint restaurant in the south of France. I tried really hard to find something that fitted with my philosophy of food – that embraced the gate to plate philosophy. The Central course is the only one in New Zealand that reflects these ideals so I moved here. It’s definitely been the right choice for me.”

Originally from Tapanui, Ashleigh Kerr has lived in Wanaka for the past two years working as a Barista. She always wanted to do this cookery course.

“I finished a business degree and still wanted to do the course so I began studies this year. I’d only spent three weeks in hospitality training under Trish Wilson before being selected for the Toque D’Or team.”

Currently working part time for Wanaka Catering, Ashleigh’s goal is to start her own business – either a café or restaurant somewhere in Central Otago. She will complete the Level 5 diploma next year.

Originally from Auckland Erin Fenemor moved south to attend the Outdoor Leadership and Management Otago Polytechnic course in Dunedin. She couldn’t finish because of injury so began to explore her love of food studying at AUT where she completed Level 4 Cert in Practical Patisserie.

Moving back to Wanaka for a ski season, Erin enrolled in the Level 5 Cookery Diploma at Central while working at Cakes of Wanaka and at Cardrona.

Bringing together her love of outdoors and food, next on her list is travel. Erin has lots of allergies and eventually wants to bring her knowledge of catering for people whose diets are limited into some sort of business.

“I love Central’s gate to plate philosophy and am very interested in raw food diets – I’ll pursue that interest at some stage.”

For information about Central’s Diploma in Professional Cookery (Level 5), check out


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