Thu 29 Nov 2018

To London via WITT

"A piece of cod fillet, roasted to a crust at the top yet close to sashimi in the depth of the flakes, was the greatest compliment you can pay to a fish short of actually proposing to it."

Those were the eloquent words of restaurant reviewer Tim Hayward after visiting London restaurant Elystan Street.

"I was so proud that I represented my school, my mentors, my family, and mostly me as a Filipino."

And they were the words of WITT student Ervil Somera, after being invited to work at the Michelin restaurant.

Ervil, who is studying Professional Culinary Arts Level 5 with London City and Guilds Qualifications, was planning a trip to England to visit family when he was encouraged by tutor Mike Sutherland to canvass London's finest in the hope one of the restaurants would allow him to help in their kitchen.

"Mike suggested "since you are going to UK, why not email these Michelin restaurants and go help them in the kitchen and see how a Michelin restaurant works?

"At first I did not expect that it was even possible. I emailed heaps of them, and yes -  I got invited.'

Elystan Street is one of 72 Michelin Restaurants in the UK and headed by acclaimed chef Phillip Howard.

WITT student Ervil, now a Facebook blogger, thinks he was born to be a chef.

"My mum would always tell me that my favourite toys when I was young were pots and pans," he says.

He started his culinary career as an 18-year-old, studying culinary arts and baking in the Philippines. He then struck it lucky, getting to serve his apprenticeship in a 5-star hotel in Manila learning more about different foods and cooking techniques.

"Cooking foods for my friends and loved ones makes me really happy," he says. "Collecting and reading cookbooks, magazines, and watching cooking videos online became a hobby to me."

This year he was given the opportunity to study overseas – at WITT.

"I was so excited and determined to discover international cuisines and somehow introduce my own -  I am that person will always put his best foot forward in everything I do, so I arrived to New Zealand."

In June, four months after starting his course, Ervil competed in the Taranaki Hospitality Competitions run by the Taranaki Branch of the New Zealand Chefs Association and featured in a Stuff article.

"I got noticed by a few and thought I should not waste an opportunity to be recognised, so I launched my Facebook page: The Rustic Plate to showcase my love for cooking, food styling and food photography.

"The opportunity to work in London was an experience of a lifetime. I remembered the chefs giving me foods on my section to try, like their cheese soufflé!

"It was also a change of perception that gave me more clarity on why I am studying professional culinary arts today. I want to become a private chef and cook for VIPs someday. I want to be a well-known food blogger and be invited by different restaurants to give a review of their foods.