OPOTIKI College and Toi Ohomai have mixed their available resources to come up with an excellent recipe for creating chefs.
Opotiki College senior curriculum director Jenny Mays says the college knows there is a major shortage of chefs in New Zealand and has therefore ensured it can help train new chefs. “This is our first year of teaching level three,” she says.
On Thursday, July 24, the college’s level two and level three students enjoyed a master class taught by Toi Ohomai instructor Peter Blakeway, who says he is very impressed with the students.
“This is the best engagement of all schools I have been to. I really hope we’ll get some of these as level four students in Tauranga.”
Peter says the Restaurant Association of New Zealand is “almost desperate” about a chef crisis that is already looming.
“Over the past five-to-10 years we have become worse at producing new chefs, with the result there’s now a serious shortage,” he says. “Next year we will have a shortage of 10,000 chefs.”
Peter says that in Tauranga, every restaurant and cafe is short of one chef. “One place is being run by my level four students.”
While working as a chef is seen as a “young person’s game,” the notion that being a chef wasn’t a viable career was incorrect. “I am living proof of that,” Peter says. “You do need to be passionate about it, however.”
Peter says the work done by Jenny has enabled the college to invite him or his colleagues to come and teach.
“We want to come here and work together with the college,” he says. “We want to help light the fire.”
Peter says he and his wife sold their lodge and restaurant in Scotland 14 years ago.
“Our children were two and three years old and we said there had never been a better moment to move to New Zealand. We set a goal of staying for three years, and 14 years later we’re still here and we’re citizens. It’s the most glorious land to bring up a family in.”