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The New Zealand Culinary Journey was created to give students a taste of life in the world of a professional chef. Organised by the New Zealand Culinary Development Trust, and supported by the Hospitality Training Trust, this event provides students with the chance to meet some of New Zealand's top chefs, ask questions and watch them at work. Students also get the opportunity to take a tour of one of SkyCity's many busy kitchens, taste some of the best food in the country, and talk to food and hospitality professionals to get real insight into this challenging and satisfying profession.

In 2017, the finalists of the National Secondary School Culinary Challenge (NSSCC) attended the inaugural New Zealand Culinary Journey.

The 2017 New Zealand Culinary Journey began with a seminar for the students at the Auckland University of Technology, led by AUT senior lecturer and programme leader Renny Aprea, on 'The Secrets of an Apple’. Students were shown that in a kitchen, an apple isn't just an apple: it's an ingredient with a multitude of possibilities, and an astonishing range of flavours and textures. Aprea showed the students several ways in which an apple can be prepared and cooked, how to identify and understand the different levels of this simple ingredient, how to use every molecule of the apple to ensure minimum wastage (every bit of the apple has cost the kitchen money; anything discarded is revenue wasted) and how an apple can be showcased as a main ingredient to optimum effect. 

Next up was a panel discussion, during which students were treated to an informal but informative (and often hilarious) account of life in the world of hospitality. My Kitchen Rules NZ judges and award-winning chefs Ben Bayly (The Grove, Baduzzi) and Gareth Stewart (executive chef for The Nourish Group) were joined by Kate Fay, head chef of celebrated Auckland restaurant Cibo, and living food legend Tony Astle, founder of the iconic eatery Antoines.
Astle is arguably one of the most respected chefs in the New Zealand restaurant industry, particularly among his fellow professionals. He opened his first restaurant in 1964, and has run Antoines, in Parnell, for 45 years, serving 3 lunches and 6 dinners aweek. “After 50 years, I still don’t feel likeI’m going to work.”

“This career has huge ups and downs, but if you’re dedicated enough, you’ll devote the time needed to it and you’ll discover it’s one of the best careers in the world,” Astle told the students. 
Cibo’s Kate Fay is proof that women can have a very successful career in a kitchen, and is one of New Zealand’s most respected chefs, despite facing several difficulties, including bringing up children as a single mum and discovering in 2010 she has Coeliac disease. “Going to work makes me feel happy – it always has,” says Kate, who spent years backpacking around the world before finally deciding to be a chef at the age of 25. “There aren’t a lot of women in the top spot, and there’s no doubt bringing up a family is very hard. I’d bring the kids into work in the morning to unload the veg – I remember my then-eight year old telling my kitchen staff what all the veg

But while women have their fair share of tough days in the office, it can be rough on the men too though – just ask Gareth Stewart. “I remember the day I walked into Claridges in London as
a junior,” says British-born Gareth, who moved to New Zealand with his Kiwi wife in 2007. “The sous chef walked up to me, looked me up and down, and just said, ‘You’re mine.’ I was terrified.”
While all the chefs had stories to tell of some of their career highlights and lowlights, one message was clear: it’s an industry with long hours and it’s not for the faint-hearted – but if it’s something you love, you’ll never work another day in your life. Although, says Astle, watch out for food critics!
“Getting a bad review can be incredibly hard – I was 22 when I got completely rubbished in my first ever review, and they didn’t even mention the food!” he remembers. “A bad review of your restaurant can ruin your life. So always be the best you can be, and have confidence in yourself.”

After the panel discussion, students were invited into the kitchen, where the four chefs showed the students some tricks of the trade, using some of the trending equipment often found in a professional kitchen, including an ANOVA sous-vide oven - an appliance which was part of the winners' NSSCC prize package.

Lunchtime saw the students change venue, to enjoy a specially-prepared lunch at the acclaimed Gusto at the Grand restaurant in Auckland’s SkyCity. Students were treated to dish after dish of delicacies from the kitchen. During the lunch students were given the opportunity to meet previous competition winners, including last year’s winner Sam Heaven, who has just completed his first year of a three-year apprenticeship at SkyCity. 

Working his way through an apprenticeship which he hopes will result in the opportunity for him to work in some of New Zealand's top kitchens, Sam says winning the competition, and taking advantage of the support given to him by the Culinary Arts Trust, has given him a significant career boost. 

“Winning the National Secondary Schools Culinary Competition has changed my life, absolutely,” says Sam, who currently works in the production kitchen and aims to graduate to some of SkyCity’s top-level restaurants like The Sugar Club. “I’ve been given a start that I don’t think I’d ever have had if I hadn’t won. It’s the best thing I ever did, and I’d encourage anyone thinking about a career
in hospitality to have a go.”

The inaugural New Zealand Culinary Journey concluded with a tour of the impressive kitchens in
the SkyCity complex for the students and their tutors before this wonderful and exciting day came to a close. 

The 2018 Culinary Journey will take place on Wednesday 5th September, following the Grand Final of the National Secondary Schools Culinary Challenge on Tuesday 4th September. More details to come.

Photo's of the New Zealand Culinary Journey 2017

The 2017 NZCJ started with a Master Class held at AUT with Renny, Senior Lecturer, showing a story of the humble 'Apple'. 

The NSSCC regional winners were then lucky enough to hear from some of Auckland's culinary legends. They told their stories, life as a chef and what would help these guys become the future stars.

They then headed into the kitchen for a hands on demo, trying out the latest industry skills.

Lunch at Sky City was next, with a catch up with last years winner, who is now doing a City & Guilds Apprenticeship with Sky City. After lunch, we toured the Sky City Facilities and got a taste of the volume and all the outlets they operate daily. 

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