Thu 19 May 2016

A golden weekend

WITT is celebrating more culinary success in the run up to defending its Nestle Professional Toque d'Or title.

Two teams from the polytech collected medals at the Hawke's Bay Regional Salon Culinaire in Taradale at the weekend.

Front of house Cassandra Hancock and chefs Tom Simon and Omkar Kulkarnie claimed overall honours in the event after picking up a front of house gold medal and a silver in the kitchen. The team will represent WITT at the 2016 Nestle Professional Toque d'Or competition in Auckland in July.

WITT's junior team of front of house Barrie Williams and chefs Mannie Anglesey and Shane Thony also claimed medals in their first event – gold for Barrie and bronze for the chefs.

WITT Hospitality Programme Manager Andrew Brooking said the results were excellent and the experience gained over the two days invaluable.

He said the teams knew the competition would be considerably more intense in Auckland and were geared up to some testing training, which will include "dummy runs" catering for guests to ensure they had their techniques and timing right. They will also be fundraising via a raffle – with the main prize being tickets to a degustation dinner where the two teams will be on duty.

Last year culinary students Abbey Warner and Nerys Whelan, and Genevieve Lysaght, front of house, brought home WITT's first Nestle Professional Toque d'Or title.

For Tom Simon cooking under pressure is not entirely new. He worked in the kitchen in a junior management role in the United Kingdom for one of Britain's most respected chefs, Frenchman Raymond Blanc.

But India-born Tom was denied a visa to stay longer, saw an opportunity to study at WITT and moved to New Zealand. He now has a visa – and a slice of a gold medal to his name. As one of tutor Alex Dickie's students he is considered an immense talent.

"We had a few ups and downs at the weekend, but compared to other teams we were on time and the learning experience was great," he said.

Shane Thony finds himself preparing to compete in a national event with a training team just months after deciding to aim for a New Zealand Certificate in Culinary Art, Level 3.

Andrew Brooking said the former Inglewood High School student was "always in my headlights" as an impressive Trades Academy Student last year.

"I didn't want to waste time at school, I was lazy there," Shane said. "So I decided to aim for this qualification because it's something I will be able to use.  Plus it's good to learn how to cook good food rather than have McDonalds.''

He said he enjoyed the learning experience at the weekend..."it was fun and a lot less stressful than I thought it would be."

The teams will be competing again on home territory when regional competitions are held at WITT on June 13.

Picture: WITT's winning team celebrates at the weekend.