Hailing from Nagpur, Maharashtra, Aman Baraiya sought out training opportunities further afield after studying and starting his hospitality career in India. Graduating with a Hotel Management qualification in 2015, Aman started working as a chef in the luxury 5-star hotel, The Oberoi in Mumbai, preparing Indian Cuisine. Nearly two years later, he decided to travel to expand his skills in New Zealand.
“New Zealand is always been a fascinating country for me whether it be the cricket, various adventure sports, or its beautiful, captivating places. So, I chose to come to Queenstown, the reason being there were lots of opportunities in hospitality as per my research in that period.”
Aman checked out SIT online. “I looked into social media and their website, I could easily find details about the course I wanted to do - Level 4 Cookery,” and thought it was a good ‘next step’ for his learning. He felt the course would take him further, building on the knowledge he already had. Another reason influencing his decision was SIT’s good reputation.
The course Aman chose comprised Level 3 and Level 4 Cookery; level 3 covered basic skills and with his previous experience he could easily get ahead in this. However, he found level 4 more complex, with content on kitchen procedures in New Zealand, “and the dishes that we were learning were more difficult and required a bit more skill.”
At level 4 he learnt all about the compliance requirements which are practised in New Zealand, such as HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point). He learned how to plan menus and the class also did pop-up kitchens; this helped Aman to develop an imaginative approach to cookery.
“When I look back on my time studying the course, the most valuable aspects were the pop-up kitchens, where we had the chance to be creative with food. The assignments - where we would have to plan, draft, execute and finalise - were interesting as well. Also, events in which we had site visits, and grand dinners where we hosted local businesses, were really good times to remember,” he added.
Aman said the friendships he formed with his classmates meant everyone made a good team working together in the kitchen, without any hassles. “My classmates were really good, most of us are still in contact with each other.”
He most enjoyed the social aspect of student life, making friends, socialising and learning together.“ ... we all came from a different culture ... we built up something understood by everyone, this was very positive and motivational.”
Aman says studying at SIT was in itself the highlight for him. He describes Nick Westerman, course tutor, as “very inspiring ... and was helpful with the right approach to things.”
“All the faculty have been very helpful in providing the best knowledge, the staff have tremendous industry experience and never let me down with help and assistance.”
SIT facilities also hit the mark. “We had a professionally built kitchen with new and advanced equipment, such as sous vide/ molecular gastronomy kits and more,” Aman explained.
Aman’s studies assisted in securing employment by creating a base knowledge which helped him develop to be ready for a challenging industry, for example - basic fundamentals of food costs, HACCP control, and other New Zealand food hygiene and cleanliness standards “which we studied at SIT were of the utmost help”. SIT staff also provided guidance for the students as they sought work.
With a goal to soak up all the knowledge he can by working with the best chefs and building those all-important industry connections, Aman believes in working hard to demonstrate his commitment and prove himself as a dependable team player.
Clearly these are the right attributes to succeed, having gained employment at a local resort Aman started as Chef de partie, then moved up to Sous chef at one of the resorts’ restaurants. Describing his job as challenging, busy, yet a very enjoyable role within the team, Aman says they all work together to create the best possible experience for the customers.
“I’m involved in all the aspects of the restaurant, I take complete ownership of the things we do here and give it my best - planning operations, maintaining quality hygiene, maintaining the high standard of the food, running the kitchen after head chefs, taking part in menu planning - are some of the tasks I do.”
Aman can see his qualifications taking him far in his career; they have been the catalyst in his development to becoming a professional chef here. Eventually he would like to open his own food business, where he can create “unique food creations and develop my own style of cuisine, where it’s about making an experience for the customers and not just feeding them a meal.”