Wind back the clock to the summer of ’99 and the first group of students to study at UCOL’s new campus in Palmerston North’s CBD arrived. Twenty years later a small group of hospitality, cookery and tourism alumni are sharing their stories ahead of the New Zealand Chef’s Conference in Palmerston North.
Reunion organiser Damian Peeti said "we were the first group to study cookery in the new teaching kitchens on Queen Street. The group are looking forward to having a look at the campus in Manawatū as well as visiting markets and art galleries.
A UCOL alumnus from the class of '99, Damian's career includes President of the Student Association at UCOL, time in industry as a chef, giving back as a lecturer, and now Kaiawhina Akonga providing student support.
"A group of us flatted together in apartments in King Street, and have kept in touch. Some of us met our partners at UCOL, and a few of us have come full circle, now lecturing and sharing knowledge with UCOL students."
The reunion includes dinner at BrewUnion where Grant Kitchen, Executive Chef, employed a number of those attending the reunion in his restaurant, then the Citadel. Grant went on to lecture in hospitality at UCOL before returning to industry. Grant is well known for his community work and has more than twenty years' experience, including at the Wellington ParkRoyal to Accor, Compass and Citadel Restaurants. Grant has been Manawatu Chef of the Year, Chief Judge World MasterChef, Judge HANZ Awards, Beef and Lamb Awards, butler to the Sultan of Brunei, runner up Restaurant of the Year, Competition Judge, food designer recipe books and much more.
Walter Matenga, UCOL alumnus from '99, is now Head Chef at The Charles Dickens Tavern in Melbourne, Australia, and credits a large part of his career success to those early days of learning at UCOL.
"The lecturers we had in those early days equipped us well for the industry by sharing their passion for food. I love visiting UCOL when passing through Palmerston North especially with being one of the first ever students to do cheffing here. It's been a good twenty years since then!"
Photo: Class of ’99 alumni Damian Peeti, Walter Matenga, Nigel Sadler, Donna Sumner and Katherine Lockwood