Tom Riley was fresh out of school and working as a kitchen hand at Alchemy in Christchurch when he decided to get into professional cookery.
"I was scrubbing pans, straining stocks, cutting veg and cooking the odd piece of meat. Everyone was having a great time - there was a lot of comradeship and laughs – it was a lot of fun."
As well as loving the kitchen environment, Tom also had a desire to travel and knew that cookery skills could take him anywhere. With encouragement from his sous chefs at Alchemy (who both trained at CPIT) he enrolled in CPIT's (now Ara Institute of Canterbury) Certificate in Cookery, but not before he'd won Alchemy's employee of the year.
That was in 2006. Now Tom is chef de cuisine at the 400-seat Oliver & Bonacini Café Grill in Toronto, Canada, where he's responsible for up to 20 cooks and four sous chefs. He also writes all the menus, does the costings and helps with the marketing.
Tom says the training he received at CPIT continues to be relevant now. "The content of my course was great; above and beyond what I've seen being taught in North America. I still reference that base of knowledge – from the aspic work to pastry to breaking down a whole lamb. The tutors were skilled and professional and their teaching style was bang-on for preparing students to enter what can be a cut-throat industry."
At some point Tom hopes to return to New Zealand and open a gastro pub. For now though he's happy delighting the tastebuds of diners in Canada.
Reflecting on his choice of career, Tom says: "Not only did cooking bring a world of flavours, techniques and tradition into my hands, it also provided a great way to travel and work across the globe."