Toi Ohomai culinary arts graduate Alex Smith believes in good food, good coffee and in doing good.
As the owner of the friendly community-focused Arts Village Café in Rotorua, he is living his dream. After completing his Culinary Arts (Level 5) qualification, Alex decided that he wanted to share his passion for cooking with the community. The café also supports the arts by donating a percentage of the profit they make on selling coffee to arts programmes.
Alex says he enjoys being a business owner and doing what he loves, but also highlights the challenges of working in hospitality.
“It’s a lot different than cooking at home with a glass of wine in hand,” he says.
“You’ve got to be able to manage your time, be able to multitask and keep your cool during long shifts,” he says. Luckily, the practical and hands-on approach of the culinary arts course prepared him well, says Alex.
“It was one of the things that really stood out for me when I was studying. That, and the support our tutors gave us. They really went above and beyond to motivate and support us – they are genuine people who care and want to see you succeed.”
For Alex, this pastoral care is what bought him back to Toi Ohomai to study after he worked at the Institute as a health & safety tutor.
“I worked as an occupational hygienist for mines all around the world and lived in Asia for a while, before returning to New Zealand with my young family,” says Alex.
Alex’s wife convinced him to channel his passion for cooking into a career. His love of food stems from his love of travel. Alex says that the best part of every trip was always the food.
“It’s such a good way to immerse yourself in a place and a culture, which is kind of the point of travelling, isn’t it?”
His advice to aspiring chefs is to build up their practical experience.
“You need to work in the industry as much as possible and for as many chefs as possible if you really want to pursue a career in food. Get stuck in and learn the ropes, learn the discipline and then the world is your oyster.”
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Profile written on: Tuesday, 14 May 2019