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With teaching facilities in Gore, Invercargill and Queenstown, the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) offers hands-on tertiary programs that equip students to enter the competitive world of hospitality. Class sizes of just 18 students per intake allow for personalised instruction and lots of practical tasks to support the theory.

Ensuring students leave work-ready with a broad range of culinary skills requires a professional kitchen environment. With their two Invercargill campus kitchens already kitted out with quality equipment, it came time for SIT to upgrade their facilities in the hospo hot-spot of Queenstown.

However, with the new term fast approaching, and with it the latest intake of chefs-in-training, construction timelines were always going to be tight. The contract start date was in December, and construction began in earnest mid-January. Everything needed to be ready to go for February.

While the knife-edge deadline was a challenge for Southern Hospitality's Boyd Nyhof he was able to accelerate the installation with help from the efficient project team. Bill Mackintosh from Beattie McDowell Architecture drew up the plans alongside a quantity surveyor and Naylor Love helped deal with the constraints of a second floor fit out.

The space was gutted of all previous fixtures to provide a blank canvas. Southern Hospitality provided new hoods and custom-made much of the shelving. With specifications of spine walls to the same height they ensured everything was out in the open and the space was easily usable for teacher and student alike.

"Getting everything on site was a big challenge," says Boyd. "We scoped the ovens to ensure they could fit in the lift. But, the benches weren't going to make it up the stairs to the second floor easily so cranes were required to lift them through a window on the second floor."

Despite such logistical challenges the project was completed within the eight-week window and the students arrived to a beautiful new modern learning environment.

"We mirrored the Invercargill campus kitchen, as the layout worked well there," say Boyd. "The low profile of the Waldorf benchtops and range looks really good in this space and the new equipment really makes a big difference."

That's the opinion from the project team, but what about the response from the students?

Chef Tutor Nick Westerman is to the point, "They love it."

Nick came to SIT from a role as Executive Chef for the Accor Group so he certainly knows his onions. "The new fit-out is a fully professional kitchen and has completely changed the teaching experience."

Nick loves seeing the progression students can make in a short time on such equipment. "It's a thrill to see students who could hardly chop an onion on day one using the skills I've taught them in their cooking."

New of the new equipment and seasoned tutors must be spreading because enrolments for next semester are already growing.

IN THE KITCHEN

Look outside from the light and airy kitchen of the SIT training kitchen and you'll see a stunning view of the Remarkables mountain range.

The view inside is just as impressive, with nine Waldorf 900mm electric ranges, a Crown Electric Kettle and a Waldorf 450mm fryer. Chef Tutor Nick Westerman uses Turofan E35 Digital 6-tray convection oven for most of his demonstrations.

"It's not often you see a brand new kitchen like this in a teaching space," he says. It's really motivating for students to learn skills on equipment they're likely to encounter in their first jobs."

He describes the Turofan P85 12-tray prover as a "godsend" for teaching the complex bread recipes required by the Level 4 Certificate of Cookery. "They have to make ciabatta, doughnuts, pastries and all sorts of other breads so it has really improved the teaching sequence."

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