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Niels Huibers

Hospitality Lecturer

Niels Huibers

The Dutch have an adoration for coffee and for Niels Huibers, this love ignited a whole career. From the vibrant café culture to the refined world of fine dining, Niels brings over 30 years of experience to his role as Hospitality Lecturer at UCOL Manawatū.

"I really enjoy teaching. It's great to share my knowledge and love of coffee with others who are just starting their career in hospitality."

Passion is what got Niels into the industry and he believes passion is what will help others carve out their own paths.

"You really have to have a genuine interest and love for serving people. It's not an easy job if your heart's not in it but it's such a great career that can take you all over the world."

A passionate barista and frequent competition judge, Niels started out washing dishes in the Wellington café scene. With a keen eye, a zest for coffee knowledge and many hours spent drinking coffee as research, it wasn't long before he was behind the grinder himself.

"There was a bit of a movement in the mid-nineties for baristas. Coffee, particularly cappuccinos, were changing for the better, I knew I could make them this way! Turns out I was pretty good at it - I even taught my then bosses and they loved it!"

Having been head-hunted for some of the best restaurants in the city, and nominated for Best Barista and Best Waiter at the Capital Felix Awards, Niels was planning a trip to work overseas.  

"I had gained considerable experience in Wellington for eight years and I enjoyed it but I wanted to work abroad for a while. I also dabbled in travel photography and London seemed like the place I could do both.

"I worked for an in-house caterer, the account: Ernst & Young! They provided a fine-dining experience for their employees and often held after hours employee functions. It was a great opportunity to really cut my teeth in the fine dining industry in London."

Deciding it was time to 'settle down', Niels and his wife moved back to New Zealand in 2008.

"I started working for Travelodge in Palmerston North. The restaurant and bars were full on, but the functions were where the money was, so I needed casual workers to help with catering shifts. This was when I made contact with the team at UCOL. The ākonga (students) they gave me worked hard and learned well. I was then able to hire some of them more permanently in our bars and restaurant."

When a hospitality lecturer position became available at UCOL, Niels says his hires encouraged him to apply.

"They kept telling me I'd be good at it. They said they'd learned so much from me and the way I trained my staff could easily be transferred into lecturing. I'd never thought about teaching before but I've been with UCOL ever since!"

Now, Niels prepares ākonga for their future careers in hospitality.

"From the basic cafe skills to food safety and alcohol licensing certifications, we help get people set up for work. We also have a training cafe and restaurant onsite that provides hands-on experience. You're working in a fast-paced environment but it's a safe space to learn and make mistakes.

"And mistakes do happen - but I believe training people from the very beginning with patience and understanding is the way to get the best out of them."

Find out more about about the New Zealand Certificate in Food and Beverage Service at UCOL Manawatū.

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