UCOL Baking and Cookery graduate Zach Meads has booked himself a spot on the New Zealand team for the Oceania WorldSkills competition after an impressive showing at the nationals last weekend.
Pictured above: Zach Meads and Summer Dennison
The WorldSkills New Zealand National Competition saw 67 regional finalists compete across 14 industry categories at the Waikato Institute of Technology (Wintec).
Zach won a silver medal in the Cooking category, after finishing 0.004 points behind the winner, Nicholas Todd of the New Zealand Defence Force. This close finish meant that Zach was selected for the Tool Blacks team to compete in the WorldSkills Oceania Competition in Melbourne early next year.
The top finisher out of Zach and Nicholas will then go on to compete at the WorldSkills International Competition in Abu Dhabi.
"It's going to be a good opportunity to represent New Zealand, Palmerston North, and UCOL," says Zach.
Zach was also named best overall competitor from the Wellington region, while UCOL Food and Beverage Service student Summer Dennison placed second in the Food and Beverage class.
The Cooking competition involved preparing a three course meal on each of the two days. For the first round, Zach was informed of most of the ingredients prior, but he also had to work with a number of mystery ingredients. On day two Zach was allowed to prepare a meal he had already practiced.
Salmon dish created on day two by Zach Meads
Zach says the competition was harder than he expected, but enjoyed that it really pushed his boundaries.
"I was a bit worried on the first day that I wouldn't plate up in time, but I managed to come back from a slow start. I was stoked with the outcome."
"Some of the mystery ingredients threw me at the start. I had to use bone marrow, which was a real challenge, but I got there in the end," he says.
Having already completed level 3 and 4 Cookery and Baking programmes at UCOL in Palmerston North, Zach plans to return in 2017 to complete the New Zealand Diploma in Cookery (Advanced).
"I've really loved the Cookery programmes at UCOL and can't wait to get back into it next year," he says.
In the meantime he is enjoying working as a chef at Feilding restaurant Amayjen and completing UCOL's Free and Easy computer skills course.
Dishes prepared by Zach Meads at the competition
Beef and bone marrow dish
Chocolate mousse with mandarin sauce and poached mandarins
White chocolate mousse with pear