Olive Ona is sharpening her knives and prepping for her toughest competition yet.
The Toi Ohomai Culinary Arts student was yesterday crowned the North Island regional winner of the Nestle Golden Chef Hat competition and will now prepare to take on the best young chefs from New Zealand and Australia at the Grand Final in Melbourne.
Olive says her passion for cooking spurred her decision to study at Toi Ohomai and she hasn’t looked back.
“As a Filipino student it’s unusual for Culinary to be an ideal future but my family supported me after seeing how eager I am with cooking.
“I’m really enjoying my course. I am very lucky to be trained by knowledgeable and passionate tutors.”
Olive says her journey to get through the regional heat was nerve-wracking, and filled with practice, disappointment, and satisfaction. She struggled to put her menu together and focus on the challenge.
“I had amazing support and encouragement from my tutors and mentors Tikwang Tan and Jonathan Chemis. I had to change my mindset completely.
“Next thing I know, I did well on my third practice run; then I did a trial while in class and for our last run it just worked.”
Olive’s dedication paid off and she rewrote her work plan several times, to the point she had memorised it.
“Without support from my mentors at Toi Ohomai I would never have achieved anything close to that plate.”
Olive dished up a pork medallion and tomato pork ragout, gnocchi, and sautéed silver beet for the competition. For dessert, she plated a choux pastry filled with coffee bavarois, royal ganache garnish with a nutty crumble.
“I was shocked when they said I had won. We had to wait two to three hours for the results as it was a close game.
“My heart was racing. I never thought I’d be at the top as I tend to lack confidence in myself, but it was good. It was rewarding seeing my tutors' faces and I was relieved that all the hard work had paid off.”
Olive is now looking ahead to the Grand Final in Melbourne where she will compete against the regional winners from across Australia and New Zealand.
"I will train harder with the support of my mentors so I can get that gold and hopefully win.”
Olive is determined to succeed in the hospitality industry and says she wants to be a skilled chef, who can cook anywhere.
“I want to explore culinary arts more.”
She says anyone considering studying culinary arts should give it a go.
“If it’s your passion you have to go for it. But also study the industry first and make sure you are willing to work hard while enjoying what you do.”