Their shared love of cookery brought them together and now NorthTec graduates Alex Holt and Claire Zhang have tied the knot in the place they met — the tertiary institute's hospitality course.
NorthTec's Apprentice Restaurant recently hosted the wedding after the couple graduated from the cookery course and opened their own business.
Northlander Holt and Zhang, who is from China, met as classmates studying cookery. Both graduated with a Diploma in Cookery at the end of last year, and they chose NorthTec for their wedding venue. They have also recently opened the Maunu Roast Shop together.
The pair were pursuing other career options before they each decided to study cookery.
"I was studying accountancy in Auckland but didn't enjoy it, so commuted up to Whangārei for part-time hospitality work in the weekends. I later moved up here and after a mix of different jobs in hospitality, I decided to study cookery to be like one of my managers who had become a role model for me. I worked three different jobs while I was studying and met Claire as a classmate," Holt said.
Zhang had trained in business in China and her family was keen she continued to study business in New Zealand as an international student, but her passion was for cookery.
"I met Alex on the course, we became friends, and we both finished our level 5 training and graduated. During the summer holidays Alex (who used to be a professional swimmer) and his sister were teaching me and a friend how to swim. We started spending more time together and eventually we started dating," she said.
Holt admits the choice of NorthTec's Whangārei Apprentice Restaurant as their wedding venue was unusual.
"As students, we were used to catering for other social functions there, so I was cheeky enough to ask the cookery course manager if we could use it as our wedding venue. We had limited funds and made the decision on fairly short notice, so we were restricted with our venue options. We were surprised and delighted that NorthTec said yes,'' he said.
"We were especially blown away that they also waived the normal charge-out fee, and that nine hospitality staff volunteered their time for the event. It was a very special day and Claire's parents from China were able to be here to share it with us."
Lisette Buckle, NorthTec Pathway Manager for Service Industries, said the decision to offer the restaurant and staff for the wedding was a one-off situation.
"I taught Alex and Claire towards the end of their diploma and had seen them succeed and graduate. Our students are with us for three years so we really get to know them and this was a lovely opportunity for us to give back to them,'' Buckle said.
''We also admire the way Alex and Claire have brought together their business and cookery interests."