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Source: Eastern Institute of Technology – Tairāwhiti

14 mins ago

Dan Johns finished the NZ Certificate in Cookery [Level 3] at EIT in July and plans to do the NZ Certificate in Cookery [Level 4] in February next year.

A passion for cooking led Dan Johns (Ngāpuhi) to leave his service station job to become a kitchen hand and has now seen him follow his dream of becoming a chef by studying at EIT Tairāwhiti.

Dan, who hails from Auckland where he went to school and worked for a while, moved to Gisborne nearly seven years ago to be closer to the family of his partner, Shiane, when she fell pregnant with their first child.

“I was working at a petrol station and realised it was just getting me nowhere. I’ve always had a passion for cooking. On the off-chance I saw a kitchen hand job going in this restaurant in Gisborne, so I applied for it, went for a trial, got the job, and then got motivated to do the NZ Certificate in Cookery [Level 3] to move on up to be a chef.

The restaurant was popular local Gisborne eatery, The Works, where Dan is still employed.

He completed the level 3 programme at EIT’s Tairāwhiti Campus in July, and he is set to begin the NZ Certificate in Cookery [Level 4] in February next year with the intention of moving up the ranks at his restaurant.

For Dan, who is now Senior Commis Chef at The Works, it is the craft of creating food that he enjoys.

“It’s about the creation really and making people happy with food. It just brings joy when you serve someone up a dish and you see that sparkle in their eye. Letting someone taste a food combination for the first time or simply making people happy is what I appreciate and love about cooking.”

Even before he took it up as a career, Dan loved cooking.

“I was self-taught. I watched cooking shows and I just got tips from that and then just experimented at home with my own combinations, and I really enjoyed it. It was calming for me.”

Since then, Dan believes his skills have benefitted from the level 3 programme and he has particularly enjoyed the teaching techniques of his lecturer, Tony Davis.

“The teaching techniques of Tony made learning fun for me, it actually got through for me. One of his common sayings is: ‘Would you pay for it?’ He doesn’t straight away say: ‘You’ve done this wrong.’  He’ll ask you if you can see where your mistake was and then go from there.”

Dan says supportive managers at the restaurant have made it easier for him to focus on his studies, with him able to work shifts that suite his lectures. Working splits shifts at the restaurant also allow him to spend time with his children. He has six in total, but three of them live in Auckland.

Because the study was only three days a week, I would study in the day and then have a couple of hours at home before doing the night shift.  It was my boss who actually suggested me to do the level 3 programme and then my head chef was really supportive as well.”

Dan is already thinking beyond the level 4 programme and is keen in potentially doing the NZ Diploma in Cookery (Advanced) [Level 5] – Cookery strand.

“If I want to move up to be a head chef, I will need the level 5 qualification because they do more on nutrition, costing and things like that. However it would mean moving to Napier because that is where they offer it.”

Tony Davis, who is a Catering Lecturer in the School of Tourism and Hospitality at the Tairāwhiti Campus, says Dan found the programme to be exactly what was needed to advance in his career.

“He said the course has prepared him for the job and he has since had a promotion at work. The programme covered all of the topics needed and the practical classes taught the skills required in a professional kitchen.”

“He is looking forward to following up with the level 4 cookery programme next year to further his knowledge and opportunities.”