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Open School at NZSFW

Each month, the New Zealand School of Food and Wine opens its doors to visitors and students from all over the country and further afield, wanting to learn more about the school and its courses and to experience the classes first-hand. 

I attended the Open School at the NZSFW on Tuesday the 23th June, and had the opportunity to observe four different classes in action: the Level 3 Cooking Class, 3-Day Barista Course, 3-Day Cocktail Class as well as the Level 1 WSET Wine Course taught by the School’s Director, Celia Hay. 

The Level 3 Cooking Class, which runs for 20 weeks, teaches students the foundations of cookery skills to begin their culinary career and build confidence in a professional kitchen. In this group, many of the students had experience working in restaurants or cafes and were looking to build on their current skills and knowledge.

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This class started with Chef Stefan Lötscher’s demonstrating how to cook and prepare some of the typical breakfast menu items that we’re all familiar with, including the classic Eggs Benedict with Hollandaise Sauce, a plain Omelette, followed by a French Toast with Caramelised bananas and poached fruits. The menu sounded simple but was actually quite technical, and I enjoyed the demonstrations, and also being able to view what’s happening on the stove via the TV screen above it.

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There is a lot of discussion and interaction with Chef as he works through the different dishes. The students are then invited to come to the front to taste the food and try each element – an important component of the lesson, because the students replicate these same dishes during the session in the large practical kitchen following the demonstration. There is an easy camaraderie between Chef Stefan and the students both in the demonstration kitchen and in the practical kitchen, and the overall vibe was one of fun even while learning important skills. 

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Barista classes

The Barista Course taught by well-respected Barista BK Kang, is another hands-on course that teaches students all about coffee and espresso beverages, and building on practical barista skills. This seems to be a popular course especially with high school and college students as well as those already working in cafes, or looking to work in one. 

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What I immediately learned was how much technique went into making a good cup of coffee, and it isn’t as easy as it looks! From simple heating and steaming the perfect milk to tamping the perfect shot, there is technique involved in every stage, and BK was endlessly patient and cheerful as his students churned out cup after cup of Flat White in order to perfect the pour!

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I sat in briefly on Celia Hay’s class, the Level 1 WSET Wine Course, which is an introduction to the world of wine, combining knowledge with wine tasting where you learn to write notes about each wine. This class was perfect for beginners wanting to build a strong base in wine knowledge as it covers the international styles of wine, along with characteristics of common grapes, food and wine pairing as well as the Level 1 Systematic Approach to tasting wine.

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Bartending and cocktails

In the 3-Day Cocktail Class, students have fun while learning how professionals make cocktails such as Margarita, Cosmopolitan, Mojito and Caipirinha and finally progressing into learning how to create their own innovative cocktails. 

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This is again, a fun and interactive class at the professional bar set up at the school’s Viaduct Room with all the tools of the trade you need to make and perfect your own cocktail. We started out with the very classic cocktails such as the Screwdriver, a drink made of Vodka and Orange Juice and it was certainly entertaining watching the students taking turns being the bartender and the customer.

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The Open School days I find are a wonderful and special opportunity to gain an insight into the hospitality industry, which is what the NZSFW is all about. It allows new students to become familiar with the school’s facilities, talk to the teachers and staff in person, or gain more information on the full and part-time courses that are available at the School.

Whether you are a student or a working professional, or simply someone wanting to further explore a passion or hobby, I would certainly recommend attending the Open School to see for yourself what the environment and facilities are like, and to talk to the friendly staff that will advise you on your options. If nothing else, you’ll leave learning how to poach the perfect Eggs Benedict and whisk your very own Hollandaise Sauce, which is an important skill in all Kiwi households!

 Jo Lene Mahon; 1st July, 2015

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