A trip to New Zealand gave an aspirational young Filipino woman the opportunity to pursue a new career that she never thought was possible.
In September 2015, Lisle Sia took her first steps into a teaching kitchen at Auckland Hotel and Chefs Training School (AHCTS) and her dream to become a chef started to come true.
“I loved baking, but I didn’t know very much about other cookery and I knew I needed to learn this,” says Lisle.
Cooking for family and friends was very different from preparing multiple innovative and high-end dishes for a restaurant, and undertaking formal cookery training transformed Lisle’s hobby into a career.
At the boutique chefs’ school, students learn everything from the basics through to more complicated tasks, which prepares graduates for professional cooking.
“Our chef tutor gave us a good idea of what to expect when we started working in a commercial kitchen.”
Lisle’s cookery training included work experience at a leading Auckland restaurant where she developed her skills during the practical experience.
In New Zealand, demand for quality hospitality staff is so great that a year after commencing training, Lisle started part-time employment at a popular refurbished hotel, Naumi Auckland Airport.
“I was a demi chef and covered some night shifts, doing à la carte cooking.”
The hotel executive chef, Luke Bottner taught Lisle when he tutored at AHCTS and he knew her cookery skills and work ethic would be valuable in his kitchen.
By August 2017, the young Filipino graduated from AHCTS having completed a New Zealand Certificate in Cookery Level 4 and a New Zealand Diploma in Cookery Advanced (Level 5).
Now, Lisle is considering where to specialise.
Pastry and baking remain her favourite disciplines, but she feels she still has a lot to learn about general cooking.
With a Filipino background, Asian-style dishes come naturally to her, but European cuisine is still a culinary art that Lisle is keen to develop further.
“When I go out for dinner I’m always looking at a dish and wondering how did they make it and that process really excites me.”
Luke says there are great opportunities for well-trained chefs in New Zealand.
“It is important students learn cookery at a school where tutors have real experience in repsected restaurants and commercial kitchens. For an aspiring chef – it’s commitment, it’s dedication, where you want to go from the bottom to the top one day.”