NorthTec’s Apprentice Restaurant recently hosted the wedding of two of the institute’s own hospitality graduates.
Alex Holt and Claire Zhang, who is from China, met as classmates studying cookery. Both graduated with a Diploma in Cookery at the end of last year, and they chose NorthTec for their wedding venue. They have also recently opened the Maunu Roast Shop together.
Alex and Claire were pursuing other career options before they each decided to study cookery. Alex said: “I was studying accountancy in Auckland but didn’t enjoy it, so commuted up to Whangarei for part-time hospitality work in the weekends. I later moved up here and after a mix of different jobs in hospitality, I decided to study cookery to be like one of my managers who had become a role model for me. I worked three different jobs while I was studying and met Claire as a classmate.”
Claire had trained in business in China and her family was keen she continued to study business in New Zealand as an international student, but her passion was for cookery. She said: “I met Alex on the course, we became friends, and we both finished our level 5 training and graduated. During the summer holidays Alex (who used to be a professional swimmer) and his sister were teaching me and a friend how to swim. We started spending more time together and eventually we started dating.”
Alex concedes that the choice of NorthTec’s Apprentice Restaurant as their wedding venue was unusual: “As students, we were used to catering for other social functions there, so I was cheeky enough to ask the cookery course manager if we could use it as our wedding venue. We had limited funds and made the decision on fairly short notice, so we were restricted with our venue options. We were surprised and delighted that NorthTec said yes.
“We were especially blown away that they also waived the normal charge-out fee, and that nine hospitality staff volunteered their time for the event. It was a very special day and Claire’s parents from China were able to be here to share it with us.”
Lisette Buckle, NorthTec Pathway Manager for Service Industries, said the decision to offer the restaurant and staff for the wedding was a one-off situation. She said: “I taught Alex and Claire towards the end of their diploma and had seen them succeed and graduate. Our students are with us for three years so we really get to know them and this was a lovely opportunity for us to give back to them. We also admire the way Alex and Claire have brought together their business and cookery interests.”
After graduating, Claire had a clear plan to set up a roast business having worked part time in a roast shop. She said: “I had spent a year looking for a suitable location when this Maunu Road location became available. Alex has now joined me as a director in the business and we are working hard to develop it.”
Alex said: “We want to extend the hours and we have plans to buy a house when we can afford it. Sometime next year we also want to go over to China and have a Chinese wedding.”