Jami Kerrigan got her start in hospitality at age 16, working weekends at a small local café. Upon coming back to New Zealand after a period of travel she started work at Café Hanoi, where after only three months she won the Moana New Zealand Emerging Talent Award at the recent Lewisham Awards.

Kerrigan described the win as “extremely humbling.”

“I’ve always been told it doesn't matter what you do, as long as you give it 100 percent, and for my one hundred percent to be recognised and appreciated makes me very happy!”

Kerrigan’s favourite part of the industry is “the collective pursuit to make someone smile, in any way, each and every day.” The chance to have a small, positive interaction with someone has the potential to grow into something much larger. “If you make someone’s day, who knows the positive effect it can take on both of you and what other positive human connections it will lead to after that!”

However, hospitality isn’t without its challenges. “I think, in New Zealand especially, there is a tendency to see hospo as an in-between job, something unsustainable and not worth the output,” Kerrigan said. “However, for me, the human connection that is created when I get to meet new people and work with people I adore every day, is highly rewarding and underrated.”

“There are always people who assume that waitresses are blank sheets of cardboard, and it can easily become tiresome. However, they're definitely outshined by the wonderfully progressive and kind customers who enjoy and appreciate the experience to meet someone who not only can do their job, but open up their personality too.”