It's official - I am now a student enrolled in HV4441 Certificate in Food Preparation and Culinary Arts at Weltec in Petone - Yahoo! The course is full-time for 42 weeks, so this is my life until April 2012.
So, what happened today? I turn up for orientation just before the appointed time of 9.30am. An eclectic mix of individuals mill around or queue to find out what to do next. I had to get an ID card and organise computer login and access - all pretty straight forward. Last time I got a student card (in 1986) you waited about a week for it - today it takes about 3 minutes and the laminated card is in my hand - yay, student discounts!
Five white coated chef lecturers - all men - lead 80 or so of us cookery and patisserie students to a classroom to hear what is in store for over the next year.
Cherie Freeman, the Head of School Hospitality and Tourism, speaks first and spends a lot of time emphasising the opportunities available for graduates of the programme. Apparently there are currently 10,000 jobs in Hospitality available throughout New Zealand, and chefs are on the Immigration list headed "We Want You". Who knew? Cherie tells us the course is designed to meet the dictates and requirements of the industry, and the school would be remiss if they did not insist on professional presentation and behaviour - particularly being on time ready to cook at the appointed time; properly attired (more on that next week when we get measured for our uniforms); and respectful.
Cherie also emphasises the extent to which fees are subsidised by the taxpayer - my fees are $5,656 international students pay $19,000 - the actual cost of training for the year. As one who has paid significant amounts of tax over the years this point is not lost on me, though I am not entirely sure it means as much to others in the class. She also tells us there is no second chance - if you drop out and then decide to give it another go a couple of years down the track, you pay full whack and there is no student loan or assistance. This is news to me and I applaud whichever policy maker made it happen.
Ben Shadbolt, Senior Chef Lecturer and the Team Leader for the course then takes over and talks a bit more about the hours, structure and so on. He tells us the City and Guilds qualification we gain is recognised world wide and that many students have gone on to work in top kitchens overseas. Gordon Ramsey rates the Weltec training highly - I can only think this is a good thing as if anyone has high f#%king performance standards it's Gordon.
Classes run Monday through Thursday, and Friday is reserved for self directed study or "resits" if you have to do them. Ben tells us assessment is held as close to learning as possible, so the work we do on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday is assessed on Thursday. If anyone needs incentive not to have to resit, there is a $50 fee.
At this point we divide into four groups: Novotel, Ibis, Bellamys and Hilton - could the names be any less inspirational? Each group has about 18 students and I am assigned to Novotel. The tutor assigned to our group is teaching another course so we are melded with Ibis for our walkaround. He takes us through the Learning Commons (Library to you and me), classrooms, tutor offices, and lastly the training kitchens, which we don't enter - we just press our faces up against the glass and stare longingly at the burners and prep tables.....soon, soon.
I have nothing specific to say about my classmates at this point - as you'd expect there are a couple who look like they should be in jail, some giggly girls, some just look dazed and confused. I do look at them and wonder what brings them here; who the stars will be; who will drop out because it isn't for them; who will be a lazy ass; who will show flashes of brilliance; who will go on the great things.
In the meantime, that's it for this week. Next week's installment will bring exciting stories of being measured for uniforms and, hopefully, getting a good set of knives! hey, great name for a food and cooking blog don'tcha think?