Young trade students build such a good connection with AHCTS chef tutor, Adrian Managh that many of them return to the boutique chef college to study Level 4 cookery with him. Maybe it’s because Adrian strives to find something good about every student’s work that he gives the school students the confidence and motivation to pursue a career in culinary arts.
“I quickly learnt to see every trade student as an individual and not expect kids from a particular school to all be the same,” Adrian says. “When they start in our training kitchens, many of the school students don’t expect what they are doing will be a success. They can get annoyed with themselves before they even start.
“By the end of the programme, they get annoyed with themselves when something they have cooked doesn’t work because they know they are capable of doing better.”
Sometimes trade students may not fit into their regular secondary school structure and when they come to AHCTS, it can take up to six weeks for them to believe Adrian when he praises their work. Once they trust him and drop their protective guard – they accept his feedback, both good and bad. Then the training kitchens at Auckland Hotel and Chefs Training School become a safe and happy place for the teenagers.
“When they conquer their fears and realise they like cookery, and they can do it – that’s when they come back to us to study level 4.”
Adrian ensures the school students understand the AHCTS tertiary training culture will be pretty much the same as what they experienced when they studied cookery as a trades student.
It will be supportive, positive, hands-on and creative.
Not just cookery
Training to be a chef involves more than following a recipe and producing a dish. All AHCTS students learn other skills such as planning, maintaining a clean workspace, wearing a clean uniform, teamwork and discipline.
“Once they realise that we all learn the soft skills and abide by the rules the trade students don’t push against them so much,” Adrian says.
Some skills like sharpening knives, can be a little bit scary at first but often the fear is because the teenagers think they won’t be very good at the skill. Sometimes they avoid a task, or they just do it their own way because the new cookery student doesn’t want to be seen as not knowing what to do.
Presenting a dish
It can take some time for a cookery trade student to present a dish with confidence.
“At first they don’t want to present and they are unsure if they have it correct. I always find something that is good about the dish and give positive feedback about how they could improve on it next time.”
The cookery trade course is a 28-week programme and it can take up to eight weeks for the trade student to gain confidence. When they come back to study level 4 cookery, which is fees free for eligible New Zealand students, Adrian sees the students really grow.
“They find their place in the world and they’re happy they have found something they are good at.”