Tauhara College students' two terms of hands-on learning at Wairakei Resort kitchen

Tauhara College students' two terms of hands-on learning at Wairakei Resort kitchen

“I could hear the panic in his voice.

“I asked the management team and we said ‘yes’ straight away.”

When Tauhara College rang to ask for help, Jane Threw of Wairakei Resort said it was a no-brainer to offer the use of their Fairways Cafe kitchen as a teaching space. She says chef hospitality and industry trainer Ben Bisley was in a dire situation. Tauhara College’s school kitchen had suffered water damage and he was searching for a temporary kitchen for terms one and two.

“A lot of our employees have children who go to Tauhara College and we wanted to show support to our employees as they are our whānau,” said Jane, who has since moved from Wairakei Resort to a new role.

Heavy rain in November 2020 rendered the school kitchen unusable. But thanks to the help of Wairakei Resort, senior students studying hospitality were able to complete their practical learning at the hotel. This included making sandwiches, salads, fruit and vegetable cuts and cooking food.

Wairakei Resort use the Fairways Cafe as a function space and Jane said it worked well for the students to use the cafe and kitchen during school hours. The resort also regularly takes high school students as part of the Gateway work experience programme.

“It was cool for us [Wairakei Resort staff], we really enjoyed seeing the students gain in confidence over the two terms they were here.

“They would be in the classroom, then they would come into the hotel and say ‘this isn’t just credits [for NCEA] it’s real!’,”

Jane said three or four of the students had since applied for casual positions and come to work at the resort in the school holidays.

This term Tauhara College opened its two new school kitchens and the students no longer need to travel to Wairakei Resort. Jane said the hotel staff really missed the students and it would have been sad if the students had not been able to carry on with their studies.

“They are the future of hospitality.”

Tauhara College food technology teacher and head of technology Kirsty Trevor said Wairakei Resort had wanted to help the students and had not charged the school for the use of their facilities.

“We were so fortunate. And they are always so willing to take Gateway students.”

Tauhara College students' two terms of hands-on learning at Wairakei Resort kitchen

Tauhara College food technology teacher Kirsty Trevor with year 11 students in one of the new kitchens. Photo / Rachel Canning

Students arrived at school this term to the two new kitchens, with Kirsty saying previously the school had one larger kitchen.

“Principal Ben [Hancock] and I had heaps of input into the design,” said Kirsty.

She said they were able to salvage most of the equipment.

“We have brand new ovens, and it is such a treat.”

The final design has ovens and appliances around the outside of the room, tables for prep and classroom work in the middle, and the two kitchens linked by a pantry and laundry.

The school has changed to 90-minute teaching sessions and Kirsty says the extra time means students can tackle more ambitious dishes.

Last Friday, year 11 students Natalie Barclay, Savana Painter and Pippi Lawson, all 15, were making pumpkin soup with pinwheel scones. It’s the second time this year they have been able to do some cooking.

Tauhara College students' two terms of hands-on learning at Wairakei Resort kitchen

Tauhara College year 11 students in one of the new kitchens. Pippi Lawson (left), Savana Painter, Natalie Barclay (right). Photo / Rachel Canning

“We’ve spent two terms doing theory and getting all our unit standards. Now we can cook!” said Natalie.

Savana said she was looking forward to cooking every single time they have class.

Pippi said the new kitchens were far better organised, and it was nice to have a brand new kitchen to cook in.

“I am so grateful they managed to get some kitchens in time for us.”

Jess Bennett, Jayden Siddells, and Jade Bunn, 15, said they made banana chocolate chip muffins the first time they cooked in the new kitchen.

Tauhara College students' two terms of hands-on learning at Wairakei Resort kitchen

Jess Bennett (left and Jade Bunn (right) in one of the new food tech kitchens at Tauhara College. Photo / Rachel Canning

Jess said the new kitchen layout made for a better team experience, as they weren’t colliding with each other the way they did in the old kitchen.

“And this kitchen seems cleaner because it’s newer.”

Jayden says he enjoys cooking and is looking forward to learning new recipes, with the new teaching space making learning really enjoyable.

Jade said she is looking forward to cooking new things, and said her family liked eating the muffins so much that she got the recipe and made a second batch at home.

Kirsty says there has been an increase in the number of students who want to learn to cook in the past few years, and says this is the first year the school has had two year 11 food technology classes.

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