Alumni Speak On The Wai Ora-Waiariki Connection

03 Nov 2015

Wai Ora Lakeside Spa Resort is one of Rotorua’s elite tourist experiences and an avid employer of Waiariki graduates. In fact, with the retreat’s multi award-winning Mokoia Restaurant, it may surprise many to learn that the kitchen staff achieving this success are also Waiariki alumni.

“Our group has been big supporter of Waiariki for many years,” says Terry Hammond, group general manager of Wai Ora Group.

“Waiariki students have a very good training base and the skills that we need. My message to Waiariki students is don’t think you are qualified just as a chef, because Waiariki produces executive chefs.”

With more than 20 years of experience, Romelyn Garde is an executive chef at Wai Ora. She still remembers how in-depth her first year of culinary arts was at Waiariki and how hands on and practical her qualification became.

“I was working, studying and a full-time mother, but I still managed to handle it. Living close by my parents helped, as did having understanding bosses.”

Proud to be continuing the resort's fine culinary legacy, Romelyn says her Filipino culture allowed her to quickly adapt to the Māori inspired menu.

“Wai Ora means ‘healing waters’, so we have indigenous plants all around us. Our menu specialises in those same herbs and spices; the pikopiko, kawakawa, horopito, and now we are introducing the akeake.”

Brian Ty is proud that his mum has been able to visit from the Philippines and sample his skills first hand. Highlighting that his wife, friends and family are happy he has found a career where he belongs.

“I don't like to study, but I was enticed to do culinary arts. That’s why I like Waiariki, they focus on the hands-on more than the theory.

“My tutor Bart Vosse, was really cool. He encouraged us to be creative when we plated up and make each dish our own. If you like food, you should enrol at Waiariki. It is really nice to cook, but after graduating the difference in what I can do is vast.”

Brian's fellow Diploma in Culinary Arts alumni, Rex Austria, also from the Philippines and cooking at Wai Ora, says his love of food comes from his family.

“Back home everyone loves food. Every time we have a gathering, everyone helps out cooking. It’s a family, cultural thing that is an important part of our heritage. It brings back memories.”

At Waiariki, he also competed in the Nestlé Toque d’Or, the country’s premiere student culinary and restaurant service competition.

“Representing Waiariki was a really nice experience - just like the reality TV shows but with a lot more pressure.”

With a motto of ‘Do your best and enjoy what you do’, he continues. “The food here is distinctly infused with New Zealand flavours that you won’t find anywhere else. Being part of that, I think is really something special.”

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Page last updated: 02 May 2017