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Young Chefs Step Up To The Plate

Media Release 16 September 2014

Young Chefs Step Up To The Plate

Two young chefs from the NorthTec Hospitality Trades Academy scooped up silver medals at the national finals of the City and Guilds New Zealand Secondary School Culinary Challenge 2014.

Mataroria (Mata) Rawhiti, 17, and Thea Powell, 18, both from Tauraroa Area School, have set the standard as the NorthTec Academy’s first representatives at the competition, held at the Manukau Institute of Technology last Friday (12 September). The pair scored a gold medal at the regional championships held earlier this year, where they won the right to represent Northland at the prestigious event.

The judges, all high-calibre representatives from New Zealand’s hospitality industry, were impressed with Mata and Thea’s menu selection, preparation and service. All contestants had to create two dishes, based around set menu components, and prepare and cook four portions of each, all within 90 minutes.

Despite the pressure, the pair held their nerve to serve up an entrée of leek panna cotta, served with a ginger carrot puree, ham lentils and a garnish of roast cherry tomatoes. Their main course was also a hit, consisting of poached chicken with shitaki mushroom stuffing, wasabi potatoes with roasted black rice, sesame tuile, green beans, toasted almonds and basil pesto served in a chicken broth.

Hospitality tutor Shane Paraone said he was very pleased with the NorthTec pair’s performance – especially as Thea had stepped in just two weeks prior to the event. To gain the silver medal standard, they had to score above 80 out of a possible 100, and placed fourth out of the regional representatives from all over New Zealand.

Under the NorthTec Hospitality Trades Academy, students start studying for professional qualifications while still at high school. Mata and Thea are among 10 students from Tauraroa Area School who attend, along with others from Whangarei Boys High School and Excellere College. The students, who started in February, spend one day a week in the kitchens at NorthTec’s purpose-built hospitality suite, with block courses in school holidays.

A proud Shane Paraone said: “They have really stepped up for this challenge, and had the added pressure of coming in for extra training outside of course time, to practice for the event. On the day they had to work as a team, as well as concentrating on their own dishes, and had to cope with the pressure of competition conditions.

“It’s a huge ask for these guys but the level of food they are producing is right up there. When they started in February they had only basic hospitality training. Now they’re producing food at the level of a trainee chef - and they are doing it well, while they’re still at school. This is something they can add to their CV – not many chefs will have the opportunity to do that.”

All students at the NorthTec Hospitality Trades Academy are studying for a National Certificate in Cookery, Level 3. They will leave school with the skills and a qualification equivalent to a first-year trainee chef - giving them a great head start in the industry.


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