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Home Town/Country: Wellington, New Zealand
1. What kind of formal education do you have (include apprenticeships)?
I studied for 3 years full time at Massey University, Wellington New Zealand
· Massey University Diploma in cookery and hospitality management
· City and Guilds Diploma in Professional Cookery
2. What made you decide to enter the culinary profession?
I have always had a very strong passion for new & different flavors and have always wanted to learn more about textures, methods, flavours and balance of food.
I wanted to work with the best chefs in the industry and become one myself.
3. Culinary childhood memories (e.g. Who did the cooking at home? Did you watch or participate? Favorite dishes that you still occasionally prepare?)
My mother always said I would become a Chef..... Still to this day i remember when I was only 5 years old making bread with my grandmother while all the other childern where outside playing I was standing at the bench learning how to knead bread.
I loved everything about the experience from getting flour everywhere to the aroma of it cooking to indudging into the first warm slice!
I still make fresh bread to this day! And everytime it takes me straight back to my childhood.
4. At what age did you first enter the food service industry? What was your first job?
I left school young at 14 years old, naturally I was unsure of what career path I was going to take in life. One day I was walking past a cafe that I had always admired the look of and decided to go in and ask for a job.
To my suprise they said yes but the only thing they have availible was a kitchen hand position starting on that very day! I agreed to take the job, put my bag down, put an apron on and got to work.
I have never looked back.
5. What were important stepping stones to reach your current position?
I have worked very hard in this industry to move up the ladder as you do if you wish to succeed.
I have always pushed myself out of my comfort zone to improve my knowledge and skills.
I make sure that every step I take in my career is a new challenge so I am constantly adding to my experience.
I believe in only taking steps forward and not backwards also in moving to the next step once you have learnt everything you possibly can in that position.
I have surrounded myself with industry professionals for the simple reason that you are a product of your environment and you create your own destiny.
6. Did you or do you have a mentor? (Who is that person? How has s/he helped you?)
I would not be where I am today if it was not for a wonderful woman Evelyn Russell the Head Chef of the café I walked into when I was 14 years old.
She was a very hard task master with high expectations; she worked hard and expected everyone else to do the same….. it was simple ….if you didn’t play by the kitchen rules there was no room for you in the kitchen.
She motivated me to wanting to take my career to the next step.
Unfortunately I did not qualify into Massy University commercial cookery course I was devastated! Then the unimaginable happened Evelyn happened to know the head of department at the university and personally vouched for me. He agreed to give me a shot but if I took one step out of line I was out! I was amazed that someone believed in me so much and would make this possible for me to have a “second shot”. I pushed and struggled my way though the university diploma and passed. That was the turning point for me. I finally had learnt that I could do anything if I just worked hard and put my mind to it.
From that point on, I decided I would do the same for others where possible and teach others what I have learnt on my culinary journey.
To this day I have put (together with Rob – the Manager of the Hotel) 5 Ni –Vanuatu Chefs through the APTC (Australia Pacific Technical College) in Vanuatu. Which offers a certificate in commercial cookery, the highest qualification available in Vanuatu.
We knew they may not ever get this opportunity ever again to do this; Our dream is to equip as many of our Ni-Vanuatu staff with the qualifications to have a better future, to pursue their own dreams.
7. What, if any, problems did you encounter in your career?
My age and being a young woman in the kitchen was hard until I had proven myself and taken seriously. The industry was quite different back when I was training to what it is these days.
8. What, if any, was the greatest obstacle? Describe.
Going from Kitchenhand to the Executive Chef position was a mission!
9. How did you overcome that hurdle?
Worked hard………….early starts…….lots of long days……. and late nights.
10. What is the male/female ratio in your current job?
I have only ever worked under one Female Chef in my 17 years in this industry. In New Zealand when I was training and working as a young Female Chef there were not a lot of women in the industry.
Things have changed a lot now, back then it was very much a big boys club! I have always looked at this positively it has taught me a lot about how to have thick skin and how to work in small hot environments with people from all walks of life.
11. Describe your current work conditions (including average hours per day spent on the job; do you work weekends/holidays? do you have changing shifts?)
Currently the position I hold in the company is that of both Executive Chef and Food and Beverage manager if Chantillys on the bay Hotel.
This role covers all areas of the food and beverage operation and requires a lot of hours.
Gone with the days and long nights of wearing my whites! These days I have a head chef that works very closely alongside me. I spend most my time running and developing the business.
My partner Rob and I often have a laugh and say a hotel is like a living breathing organism! It never sleeps! The walls almost seem to move in and out with every breath.
12. Are you married or in a partnership?
Not married but I have a partner Rob. He is very supportive and always encourages me to take on you new challenges to further myself!
13. What is your advice to young women entering your specific field?
Go for it! It’s a great industry with endless opportunities and its lots of fun.
It’s an industry that you never stop learning and you simply cannot know everything!
14. What are your interests outside the culinary field?
Travel, I love exploring new destinations and learning about new cultures.
15. Do you manage to integrate those interests in your life?
Yes, now I am in a position which enables me to get away from time to time, I try to travel as much as possible.
16. What are personal and professional interests that you would like to pursue within the next 5 years?
To have my own gourmet brand with high demand, that’s well established in the industry.
17. In your opinion, does the foodservice industry address problems specific to women adequately?
I think more so than ever before and with programs like Women in WACS it can only get better.
I think that if all women Chefs support these types of programs - we would have a very strong support group in place. It should see the ratio’s of women & men in the kitchen even out over the next 5 to 10 years I would like to think.
18. How could the foodservice industry/your national chefs’ association/WACS better address such problems?
Networking with each other by meetings, face book and maybe a who’s doing what page on WACS?
Getting the associations to help build solid industry friendships.