Juanita Eparaima has the best of both worlds, earning while she learns.
Juanita is studying Culinary Arts Level 4 through an industry delivery programme, meaning she is learning on the job. Much like an apprenticeship, she will earn her qualification through Toi Ohomai/Te Pūkenga, but the majority of her learning is in industry. She receives support from tutors at Toi Ohomai and has to complete assessments.
“I chose to study through Toi Ohomai because they are local which meant the support was readily available and close. It also means I can see my tutors and pop into class when I’m struggling to balance study and work and they are happy to help me without hesitation.”
Juanita says she has received great support from both her tutors and hospitality colleagues and is loving her apprenticeship.
“I've always had a passion for food and grew up in a small country hotel kitchen that my mum owned and was one of the cooks in the late 80s.
“The passion has always been a part of me, but the timing has never been ideal due to having six children. Now that they are grown and mum life is manageable, now was my opportunity to chase my dreams.”
Juanita knows the challenges facing the hospitality industry and understands courses like this will help fill the gaps.
“Due to lack of staffing in the industry, it also means most chefs become kitchen hands too. So we are balancing multiple jobs, but with courses like this there might be more of an incentive for people to learn and work at the same time.”
Juanita currently works at Greenhouse Kitchen and Bar and says a typical day is varied and full on.
“I mainly do the day shift and open the restaurant some days. So that means, getting all our stoves, fryers, and grills heated. Prepping our pass with ingredients for breakfast dishes. Checking our fridge temperature. Doing health and safety checks. Setting up grill spaces for when the grill chef arrives, and baking sweet muffins, scones and cheesecake and making hollandaise sauce.”
She says once the kitchen is set up, the team start on daily prep lists, including chopping, cooking, making sauces and prepping dishes.
During the day Juanita mainly works on the fryer and pass.
“My job is to cook fried foods for orders. It's also my job to set and finish plates then send them out once they are ready.”
Juanita says the kitchen is her happy place and sees herself one day owning a dessert-only restaurant and bar.
“Working along those in hospitality who have pushed me to follow my dreams.”
She says hospitality is a demanding but rewarding industry and to be successful you need to be passionate about what you do.
“I love it and wouldn’t want to do anything else.”