I graduated from NZSFW in 2010 and returned to Europe with a great new passion – wine! During the last 2 years I have been working for a winery (selling their wines), a wine shop and various hotels and restaurants as a waitress (Demi Chef de Rang) as well as a bartender. The knowledge I gained during the course always helped me to convince Human Resource Managers to recruit me but moreover made it easier to work in different countries with an international certificate. 2 weeks ago I came home from a trip to Argentina to visit some wine regions like Mendoza, San Juan and Cafayate and learn more about winemaking in that area where vines are planted up to 1300m above sea level. Now I am starting to do the WSET diploma online course while also studying Business in my hometown. It is a lot of work but I know finally it will pay off because for me there is no other industry that is so stunning and interesting and where you will meet such a lot of cool and interesting people ! Thanks to my time in New Zealand and at this school I found a job I truly love and aiming for an own wine bar one day.
Good luck guys,
Theresa from Germany!
As a 17-year-old student at Katikati College, Jonathan Jackson heard about the New Zealand School of Food and Wine Scholarship from a teacher and decided to try his luck. The youngest of seven children, he had grown up in a family where Saturday was baking day and everyone helped with baking and making dinner. "I've always loved cooking," he says. "I've known since the age of five that the hospitality industry was for me."
The scholarship covered his fees for the Introductory course, and he was able to stay with relatives in Christchurch. "I loved how the course prepared me for things to come in a job in the industry," he says. "It taught me how to be a waiter, front of house skills, to be a barista, and culinary terms for food and equipment. Two days a week we did cooking; one day a week we did wine. We learnt about wines around the world and in New Zealand - it opened my eyes into the wine industry - there's so much to learn."
Jonathan finished top of class, and went on to do the cooking course as well. "I was learning how to be a chef - everything from sauces, roux, soups, pastries, pasta - learning how to make fresh pasta is so easy and so rewarding," he says. "One day we got half a lamb to cut up into different cuts. Until you get hands-on, you don't realize the proper techniques - like how to cook a steak properly. It was a real eye-opener. And food and wine matching - the different characters of the wine that you get with different foods. It's amazing. We also learned how to budget for food and were taught a lot of costing skills, which are really important for a chef."
Going on to do the sommelier course was the obvious next step. "Ever since the Introductory course I really wanted to learn more about wine," Jonathan says. "It taught me all about wines from all over the world. Every day you're tasting different wines and building your palate up to distinguish different characters, flavours, colours, and smells. It was so awesome; I got so much out of it." At age 19, he was the youngest person in New Zealand to pass.
Work experience at Hay's restaurant was part of all the courses. "It gave us practical experience of actually being in a restaurant - how it works, how exciting, how stressful it can be," Jonathan says. On graduating, he worked at Hay's as a sommelier, and ran a café at Christchurch Women's Hospital before moving to the Duvauchelle Store as a management trainee.
All this training leaves his career options wide open. "I dream about having my own restaurant, with a focus on cervena, grown on my own farm - when I become rich! And I want to travel in Europe, to visit the wine capitals, do a vintage, work in a cellar door," he says. "The industry has so many paths." Jono left to work in Australia in 2011.
In her native Brazil, Virginia Diefenbach was a lawyer, but by the age of 27 she was ready for a career change. She had always loved food and searched the internet for possibilities. Polytechnic courses seemed too long, but the 16-week cookery course at the New Zealand School of Food and Wine was a perfect fit.
Virginia's husband is a mechanical engineer, so getting a work permit was easy - he is working for Hamilton Jets. And she thoroughly enjoyed the course. "Philippe (the chef tutor) was lovely," she says. "He covered a lot of basic to advanced technique. We had a fish week, a meat week, a pastry week - it was the best way to find out what you like in the kitchen."
What she found was a love of pastry. "I really liked it. I didn't like bread making, it's too physical. Pastry is more about way you handle it. And I've got really cold hands, which helps. I like to be methodical; I'm quite meticulous."
So she has found her metier working on the pie cart that has recently been opened on the forecourt of Hay's Restaurant. The pies combine low-fat pastry with gourmet fillings, such as organic Pigeon Bay lamb steak with rosemary; Moroccan lamb; beef, merlot and mushrooms; and curried chicken and braised vegetables.
Virginia says she wants to become a chef, but she's not sure about having a restaurant of her own. "I like the kitchen; I'm not a business person. I like dealing with the public selling the pies, but I love making the pies."
She and her husband now have New Zealand residency. "We really like New Zealand, and the pace of life," Virginia says. "We feel safe here."
Natalie Williams did the New Zealand School of Food and Wine Certificate in Professional Wine Knowledge in 2008. She originally wanted to become a chef and had been working in hospitality for a few years, but discovered a love of wine and heard about the course. "Eventually I want to do the WSET (Wine and Spirits Education Trust) Diploma and become a sommelier," she says.
The New Zealand School of Food and Wine course was full time and included theory, the basic grape varieties, and a lot of tastings. "It was excellent. I can't believe how much information we were given," Natalie says. "First we did the NZSFW Certificate in Wine, then the WSET Intermediate and Advanced Certificates in Wines and Spirits. We learnt about international wines, all the different wine regions of the world, and even whisky and other spirits."
Before she goes on to do the WSET Diploma, she wants to get more work experience under her belt. At 24, she feels she still needs to learn a lot. For the past year she has been working at Molten Restaurant in Auckland. "The restaurant doesn't have a sommelier and I am learning. The Certificate definitely helped me get the job," she says. "I like the interaction with people. Matching food and wine is quite challenging - and that's what I really like. I love my job."
Maggie Whiteley left school not knowing quite what she wanted to do, so set off on a gap year travelling in Britain and Europe. "I worked at a lot of jobs, and found the ones I enjoyed most were in hospitality - people-friendly jobs," she says. Back in New Zealand, she tried studying dietetics at Otago University but then found her niche at the New Zealand School of Food and Wine, taking the Introduction to Cookery and Hospitality course. "It was just a taste of everything in the hospitality industry, from making coffee to how to serve people at table. It was such a good course. It gave me confidence in what to do," she says. The focus on service and the importance of body language - plus the ability to make good coffee, no matter which machine she's faced with, are among the long-lasting things she learnt on the course.
She enjoyed it so much, she went on to do the Certificate in Cookery. "It was good, too - from making bread to setting up a menu. There were a lot of field trips. It opened my eyes wider into the whole hospitality industry," Maggie says. "It developed my cooking skills and taught me not to be scared to cook things. Philippe Meyer, (the chef tutor) is so good - he broke it all down into parts and made it simple."
By the end of the course, Maggie had decided to become a chef. But working in a number of vineyard restaurants changed her mind. "When I got into a kitchen environment I realised it wasn't so glamorous," she confesses. "I realised cheffing was not my calling, but I got interested in the wine side of things, working on the cellar door." After doing a vintage at Raupara Vintners she returned to the NZSFW last year to do the Sommelier course and has now gone on to take a one-year diploma course in wine marketing at the Eastern Institute of Technology. Eventually she would like to work in wine distribution in India, which she sees as a particularly exciting developing market.
"Celia Hay, (director of NZSFW) was so encouraging. She encouraged me to move forward," Maggie says. "She was more than just a tutor; she helped me out with lots of things. NZSFW is more than just an education place, they do whatever they can to get you on your feet. It's like a family environment. I'm still friends with the people I did the course with. It's such a good networking place."
And the chef training hasn't been wasted. "I still love cooking, and I still use my NZSFW cookbook - it's so good," Maggie says. "You never lose your cheffing skills - and travelling overseas you could get a job anywhere."