In great restaurant kitchens around the country, New Zealand’s next generation of top chefs is in training right now, developing their craft and perfecting their skills according to the proven recipe for success, the centuries-old chef apprenticeship.

The number of New Zealanders choosing to carve out a career in the kitchen with a ServiceIQ cookery apprenticeship is soaring. Currently, almost 500 trainee chefs use ServiceIQ’s cookery programmes and apprenticeships to develop their culinary skills and experience on the job to establish a professional career, and there’s room for many more.

ServiceIQ CEO Dean Minchington is keen to promote the importance of apprenticeships that lead to well-developed skill, strong working knowledge and internationally recognised qualifications.

“New Zealand’s continuing shortage of skilled chefs is a huge opportunity for young Kiwis to achieve their dream. It’s a ready-made recipe for success,” he said.

Many of the current crop of young cooks started from scratch in the time honoured job of kitchenhand. Earning as they learn, tomorrow’s chefs are taking direction from the supreme masters at upscale caterers and award winning restaurants that include: Wellington’s Logan Brown, Charley Noble, and Ruth Pretty Catering, Auckland’s Soul Bar & Bistro in Viaduct Harbour, Mission Estate Winery in Napier, Hamilton’s Victoria St Bistro, Saggio Di Vino in Christchurch, Queenstown’s Botswana Butchery, Eichardt’s The Grille and Millbrook Resort, Dunedin’s Emmerson’s Brewery, to the celebrated New Zealand eatery Fleur’s Place at Moeraki, to name but a few.

It takes about 36 months to complete the ServiceIQ Cookery full apprenticeship, so it may be several years before diners get the opportunity to taste the menus that this talented batch will have to offer. Recently though, a few of the best took a day away from their restaurant roles to put their skills to the test in pursuit of the ServiceIQ Champion Apprentice Chef 2017 Award at the NZ Hospitality Championships.

From Auckland to Queenstown, the finalists battling it out in the competition kitchen were: Matthew Andreas from the Howick Club, Sami Mansur - Waipuna Hotel & Conference Center, Natalie Brasier - Iberia Restaurant, Masterton, Geordie McLaughlin - Charley Noble, Luke Hughes - Rutherford Hotel, Nelson, Nicholas Todd - NZ Defence Force, Christchurch (the eventual winner) and Daniel Santos - Walter Peak Restaurant, Queenstown.

Minchington was delighted at the high calibre of competitors who learn to thrive under the pressure and demands of a commercial kitchen where paying customers expect high standards.

“More and more young people are gaining the vital skills on-job with an apprenticeship and this can help alleviate New Zealand’s shortage of professional chefs by growing the talent pool,” he said. “The best way to get an education, experience and earn at the same time is with an apprenticeship. Today’s great apprentices will be the success of tomorrow’s hospitality industry.”