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The sweet taste of gold

19 June, 2019

There wasn’t as much shouting as in Hell’s kitchen but the atmosphere in the Ara kitchen was just as strained as the clock counted down to zero.

On Monday, 74 participants in Ara’s 2019 Food and Beverage competition competed in 18 food categories such as making soup, pizza, pasta, savoury scones and cup cake decorating as well as in a category for café waiters and junior baristas.

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The competition gives students the opportunity to challenge themselves away from the day to day training and allows them to work under a little bit of pressure to show off the skills they have acquired.

Chef tutor and competition organiser, Stuart Goodall, said that taking part in the competition also means students get noticed by industry professionals.

“Having on your CV that you competed and won goes a long, long way. A lot of industry snap up our students because of that.”

The competition was held for the second time since the earthquakes at the Madras Street Campus in Christchurch and was open to school students, trainee chefs and all levels of the hospitality industry and featured live kitchen and restaurant events.

In order to assist entrants to gain consistency in their work skills and competitiveness, the rules, judging and awards criteria were in line with the New Zealand Hospitality Championships standards.

Three judges per class observe skills and methodology and awarded up to 60 marks for the taste of the dish and up to 40 marks for technical, practical and hygiene skills the participants displayed during the competition.

Ryan Marshall, Manager of the Cookery and Bakery department at Ara, praised the efforts of all participants.

“I respect anyone who competed because it means putting yourself outside your comfort zone and to push yourself. It also means no matter what you achieve you always learn something.

“It’s not until you actually push yourself to those limits that you get to see how far you can go and for some people receiving medals tonight is the start of an incredible journey.”

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Michael King received three medals: 2 silver and one bronze.

Michael King, a second year patisserie student at Ara, was one of the few who walked out of the awards ceremony on Tuesday evening with more than one medal.

“I won silver for savoury scones, silver for fruit flan and bronze for gluten free afternoon tea cake. That’s one medal for each category I competed in. I entered these classes because I felt quite safe in them and well prepared. But if I do compete next year I will choose something a little more out there, something a little bit more risky.”

King said the competition almost felt like a normal day in class apart from the judges walking around with clipboards and looking over one’s shoulder.

“The competition is not as frightening as it might sound. As long as you have good time management you are sweet. The rest just comes naturally.”

Another high achieving student was Matt Kennedy who is a dual enrolment student at Ara in Timaru. He was awarded the title of Canterbury Region Winner of the National Secondary Schools Culinary Competition (NSSCC) and will continue his success at the grand final in Auckland in September.

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Matt Kennedy travelled from Timaru to Christchurch to attend the awards night.

The Food and Beverage competition also included two front of house categories.

Aidan Coleman is doing a level 3 Certificate in Food and Beverage Service at Ara and entered the competition in these two categories for the first time.

For his skills making two espressos, flat whites and mochas he was awarded a bronze medal and in his preferred category, café waiter, he received silver.

Coleman who only recently moved from cookery to front of house says he likes the ‘unpredictability’ of the job and being able to engage with people.

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Aidan participated in the Food and Beverage Competition for the first time and was awarded two medals.