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Source: Eastern Institute of Technology – Tairāwhiti

3 mins ago

Dream team: Barista Keren, head chef Kieran and commis chef Mereohia.

Mereohiaohia Wilson-Munday (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Kahu ki Whangaroa) and Keren Hiko-Hollis, who is of Cook Island (Ngāti Tuaine) and Māori (Ngāti Kahungunu) descent, both studied the NZ Certificate in Food and Beverage Service (level 3 & 4) at EIT. As luck would have it, they both landed jobs at Fairways Café at the Hastings Golf Club.

Mereohia also completed a NZ Certificate in Cookery (level 4) and was employed by head chef Kieran Genge as commis or junior chef. Keren works in the front of house.

Looking back, both women say that a career in hospitality wasn’t what they had planned. Keren originally wanted to join the Navy but had to change plans when she fell pregnant six years ago. She started with a cookery qualification but then moved in a different direction. “I used to hate coffee but now I love the barista side of my job and make over one hundred coffees a day. Practise and showing love for what you do is the secret behind a great coffee. Many of our regulars already wait at the door in the morning, and we know exactly what coffee they are going to order,” she says. While the team caters mostly to club members, they also host a range of private and corporate functions.

Mereohia moved from Palmerston North to Hawke’s Bay after finishing high school. “I had a few ideas but wasn’t sure what to do. I tried hospitality and really enjoyed it. I’m a practical learner, and the EIT tutors made it fun.”

Both women received Te Ara o Tākitimu Scholarship, which supports Māori and Pasifika people into trade training programmes. The scholarship covered all fees and gave the students access to financial learning support, pastoral care, and a work broker who helped support them into employment. “I don’t think I would have been able to study without the support of the scholarship. It was great not having to worry about the money,” says Keren. Asked if they recommend a hospitality qualification, they say, “Do it. You might find out that you really like it.”

Head chef Kieran is, without doubt, an avid advocate for the industry. Kieran, originally from England, has been working as a chef for twelve years now, taking on the most diverse roles, from cooking in a nuclear power site to fine dining. Four years ago, he followed his partner to New Zealand. Kieran says there is such a shortage of skilled staff in New Zealand that businesses struggle to find workers with the right skills. “I really support EIT’s efforts to get young people in the industry. And I’m gladly taking on EIT graduates.”

Mereohia and Keren highlight the harmony and positivity of their team. “Kieran is a great mentor who willingly shares his skills and insights.”

Mereohia hasn’t ruled out to go and work abroad when the world has returned to normal. Her dream would be to start her own business serving up Māori food with a modern twist, maybe also own a cool food truck. Keren says she would be keen to jump on board and run the business together with her friend.