The rise of celebrity chefs and TV shows like My Restaurant Rules are showing young Kiwis that a career in hospitality can mean more than washing dishes out the back – and a new culinary and hospitality school is showcasing the steps needed to get there.
The Culinary Collective, which has its first intake of students in Auckland in February, is looking for young people interested in the new ways Kiwis like to eat, drink and be entertained.
And there's little doubt there is interest from that demographic of our society – according to Social Media Today, food is the most photographed subject on Instagram.
CEO Nicole Domett says the rise of New Zealand's 'foodie' culture, with its range of influences and emphasis on quality local ingredients, has meant the hospitality industry has had to change too.
"The Culinary Collective reflects New Zealand's unique food culture, which is hallmarked by a diverse mix of flavours and cultures," she says. "As well as world-class produce from paddock, land and sea, there is also the driving passion Kiwis have to be innovative, finding new ways of doing things."
The school will teach students both traditional and modern skills, from classical cooking and service techniques to contemporary hospitality trends such as the global move towards relaxed fine dining, along with a stronger focus on provenance and sustainability.
"It's more than just skills, though, it's about giving guests a real experience — how to make restaurant and hotel guests feel genuinely welcome, how to create and serve top-notch dishes and drinks and how to tell the stories behind them, whether it's a cocktail or a three-course meal," says Domett.
"We are creating a learning environment to allow students to forge their own personalised ethos around food and service and further expand the global impact of Kiwi-centric hospitality through a successful career."
The school's hands-on method of teaching, with tutors experienced in the industry, aims to help students transform a passion for food and service into a long-term career.
"According to the Restaurant Association of New Zealand, it is estimated the industry will need another 55,000 skilled workers to meet demand over the next five years," says Domett. "But we also know that many school leavers and young adults don't have a positive image of vocational education in New Zealand.
"We want to redefine that and offering engaging training and learning environments is an important starting point."
To that end, the 16 qualifications offered by the school will be directly connected to jobs in the industry. They are named after career paths students might want to take, including International Chef, Visionary Foodie, Restaurant Manager and Entrepreneur Baker.
"We are focused on attracting more students into careers in hospitality by shifting perceptions around what 'working in hospo' can be," says Domett.
Students will be placed into internships during their study to gain practical experience, then assisted to transition into employment, in association with big names such as Sofitel, Hilton, Cordis and Millennium Hotels and Resorts. There are also international opportunities for students to work in the United Kingdom, for hotels such as the Ritz Carlton, and in North America for hotels within Walt Disney World Resort, along with five-star resorts in Banff and Jasper in Canada.
Financial advice website MoneyHub.co.nz lists being a chef in its top 20 'what to study in 2020 list', based on what jobs are in demand, what they pay and the potential for career progression. Christopher Walsh, senior researcher at MoneyHub, says tourism is a key earner in the New Zealand economy, and the service industry is at the core of that.
"Training to be a chef is an excellent career choice, given the demand for jobs here and worldwide. It's creative, flexible, self-managing and highly engaging," says Walsh. "Best of all, many chefs go on to run their own business, and/or expand entrepreneurially in other ventures. It's a career that is only going up, with opportunities for every interest."
For more information about courses and enrolments visit The Culinary Collective