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The incredibly affable Martin Harrap is Apprentice Trainer and
Coordinator, SKYCITY Auckland, and has been responsible for
introducing the City & Guilds Food Preparation and Culinary Arts
qualification to their renowned apprenticeship programme.
SKYCITY is the first accredited business in Australasia to
offer this City & Guilds qualification and the largest single site
employer of apprentice chefs in New Zealand. The 2016 chef
apprentice programme kicked off on February 2, so all of the
latest intake’s new chefs are just beginning their journey.
SKYCITY has more than 20 bars and restaurants, the largest
production kitchen in New Zealand and a vast out catering and
conventions facility. Apprentice chefs are rotated through different
kitchens, learning from experienced chefs in a diverse range of
cuisines and kitchen environments. Harrap is the man in charge of
helping them determine their future, and is certainly well qualified
for the job.
FIRST THINGS FIRST: HOW LONG HAVE YOU
BEEN IN THE BUSINESS OF HOSPITALITY?
Would you believe fifty years?
THAT IS QUITE THE FEAT... WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST POSITION?
I was an apprentice back in the UK, which back then was a four-year-
long exercise. My very first job – which I can still see myself doing
now – was washing lettuces. I was 16 and wore chef’s whites with
no idea how to put the hat on, and was put in front of 48 lettuces and
told, “away you go”. I ended up having to re-wash half of them!
WAS IT THE KIND OF JOB YOU’D ALWAYS WANTED TO DO,
OR JUST A MEANS TO AN END IN THE EARLY YEARS?
Well my mother was a very good cook and we lived in the country,
which was quite an amazing experience as we were pretty much
totally self-sufficient. The gamekeeper would come by our house
every day and open his jacket and say, “pheasant, rabbit?” and I
would help Mum out making meals for the family. That interest
coupled with having a friend who was training to be a baker at the
time kind of made the decision for me.
BUT THAT ALL CHANGED AGAIN ONCE
YOU TURNED 21, I HEARD?
Yes, I decided that as I’d learned all I could about the back of
house it was time to learn front of house. I worked in front of
house at a restaurant owned by the company that I had completed
my apprenticeship with, then they transferred me to reception
then housekeeping and then the bar... After about three years the
jacket said, “come back to the kitchen”, and I did.
SO IT IS ESSENTIAL TO THE WORK THAT YOU DO NOW
THAT YOU GOT A GOOD GROUNDING EARLY ON?
Absolutely. By the time I was 27 I had done all of my
apprenticeship exams, had finished off my advanced kitchen
exams including things like pastry and cake decorating... And
then when I was 28 someone suggested that I might like to give
teaching a go.
Not straight away, I was a young man and was all about the front
line. Then over the next ten years I sort of floated in and out as I
believe that if you are going to be a teacher in a polytechnic-type
institution it is important that you still keep a hand in the industry.
At 37 I made the move to New Zealand with quite a teaching
career under my belt.
AND NOW YOU APPLY THAT AT SKYCITY...
I do, and I’m lucky that I am surrounded by so many great chefs
every day that I can keep up with changes in the industry just by
checking in with them, and my trainee chefs can too.
HOW MANY APPRENTICES HAVE YOU TAKEN ON IN
THE SKYCITY APPRENTICESHIPS SCHEME WITH
THE NEW CITY & GUILDS PROGRAMME?
Sixteen started in February, but each year differs depending on
how many applicants are up to standard. If it is just twelve then
we just take twelve, it’s as simple as that. It’s a programme of
cookery over three years that means that when they leave us as
an apprentice they are qualified to go anywhere in the world. We
of course want them to stay with us, of course!
WHAT ARE THE CRITERIA TO GET INTO
About 140 apply each year and we start with interviews over
three weeks in early October when the number is usually
about 100. We bring them in to explain what we are about,
watch them slice and dice and take them around SKYCITY,
then do fifteen minute interviews to see what they are about.
This takes us down to about 40 the second week, and we then
do 45 minute interviews, psychometric testing, team building
exercises and the like to get the number down to 24. In the
final week they are given the task of cooking three items and
doing things like showing us their knife skills and then from
that, we have our final cut. Chances are after three years if
they have done us proud, they will be offered a job. That is the
a lifetime in
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