Jobs in hospitality… stepping stones to Global Careers
Washing dishes in the kitchen as a teenager – and a passion for food – landed former Te Aroha College student Christian a chef’s role with one of New Zealand’s leading hospitality businesses.
“I love food, I love the people, I love working for something that isn’t just myself. I’m definitely suited to the service industry, because I’m service minded and I love delivering the best experience I can to other people.”
Christian landed his role with Montana Food and Events after his TA College hospo teacher fuelled the fire of his passion for the industry…
“My teacher gave me everything I wanted in terms of learning and how the diverse the industry is. We got play with all the fancy tool and gas ovens and fire. As well as free lunch everyday if you go in and cook!”
Christian started with Montana as a commis chef – a junior role supporting more senior chefs by cleaning the kitchen and prepping food – and worked his way through the ranks.
Top Career Tip
“If you have the drive and stick with it, you can be a quality chef. You’ve just got to have the right attitude.”
A Chat with Christian about his role
Christian Gore »
› Head Chef
› Former Te Aroha College Student
So, what is a head chef?
In a kitchen there is a bit of a hierarchy system. Montana is such a big company so at the top we have an Executive Chef across the Waikato and he’s the top of the umbrella. Then in each kitchen there’s a Head Chef who’s in charge of the kitchen. Anything that comes out of the kitchen is their responsibility. The work closely with their Sous Chef and kitchen team. We also have the chef de partie in charge of a section in the kitchen, and then commis chefs who work in the section.
I have recently been promoted to Head Chef after being the Sous for over 12 months. In general, my role is the day to day running of the kitchen and managing the team. Part of that is making sure our work is up to the Executive Chef’s standards. We work long hours so we try to have as much fun as we can with each other.
Entry level roles in kitchen include line cooks, kitchen assistants, stewards, and kitchen porters. They could be doing anything from washing dishes, frying chicken, plating banquets… it’s quite a large array of stuff they get to do which is quite cool.
What got you interested in this pathway? How did you get started?
One of my mum’s favourite stories is when I was young, I said I wanted to be a fire truck! When I realised that I couldn’t be a fire truck… I think I decided chef was the next best thing.
So the first step was getting a job in the kitchen. I started doing dishes when I was about 14 and worked through school, I got a placement through the Gateway programme for 6 hours a week.
I went to Te Aroha College and we had a really good hospitality teacher who just fuelled the fire. He gave me everything I wanted in terms of learning and how the diverse the industry is. We got play with all the fancy tool and gas ovens and fire. As well as free lunch everyday if you go in and cook!
I started at Montana as a commis chef and worked my way through the ranks to now where they obviously trust me with the kitchen!
What do you love about your job?
The best part of working in an industry like this is that I go to work and get to hang out with some of my best mates. I love getting stuck in and getting my hands dirty. You get into the trenches and you work your way out, you pull off an event that not many could do – and you do it while you’re having fun. And I love food! I love food, I love the people, I love working for something that isn’t just myself. I’m definitely suited to the service industry, definitely service-minded and I love delivering the best experience I can to other people.
How have you overcome some of the challenges you’ve faced?
I think it’s important to focus on what you can control. I find that coming in here and writing my prep list down and working through it methodically – you need to be organised and be as prepared as you can. Anything can happen but you can deal with it when you’re prepared.
What school subjects are important in this kind of role?
Obviously hospitality. But for those entry level jobs there’s nothing too specific you need to take in school. If you just show up every day, you can be taught to do anything if you have the drive and you want to do well. In school, maths is quite important and reading and writing. Being able to read and understand a prep list and follow instructions, or write a prep list is important on the job.
Just going to school teaches you how to get up in the morning and go in and follow a routine. That sets you up for being able to follow a roster.
What do you love about working at Montana?
I think the one thing I love the most is just how diverse it is. We do everything from a five course degustation for 1,000 people to morning tea for half a dozen to cooking chicken and chips for people going to shows and events.
What’s your advice for young people considering a job in this industry?
Just give it a go. Go into your local café or restaurant and just get a feel for what hospitality is like. I’ve washed dishes in small places, cooked dinners in big places, served drinks in a bar in Wellington – hospitality is such a diverse industry.
I think a lot of people overestimate how hard it is to be a chef. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of hours and there can be some fiddly little jobs but for the most part it’s really simple as long as you’re taught how to do it correctly. If you are taught how to do it properly and you show a little bit of care, you’ll go a long way.
Did you know…
The hospitality sector offers great part-time or casual jobs while you are studying, and can also pipeline into excellent careers that can take you around the world!
What’s a day in the life like as a head chef?
“It can be tough because of the hours and the nature of the service industry. There can be a lot of pressure and a lot of hours but there are many positives as well. You come to work with people from all walks of life and you’re with them for eight to twelve hours a day, you become best mates with the people you’re working with. I can safely say that the people I’m working with are some of the best friends I’ve ever had, same as the job before this one.
Day-to-day can be surprisingly boring to most people. It’s a lot of preparing for small functions and a lot of monotonous jobs.
There’s also lots of planning. I’d probably spend a couple a day thinking about how we’re going to do the next week, how I’m going to split the chefs, how I’m going to perform and get all of it done. Rostering, ordering… all of that stuff so that we don’t get to service and go “what am I supposed to do now?”
We write a prep list every day and work our way through it methodically until we know that the next day is crossed off. We come in in the morning and we don’t leave until that happens.”
Did you know…
International visitors are returning to New Zealand shores post-pandemic, and the demand for reliable people to work in the hospitality industry is growing as a result!
Keen to start your career at Montana?
Montana Food and Events – based in Hamilton – is the largest privately owned catering company in New Zealand. With more than 20 years of experience, the Montana Food and Events team specialises in conferences, functions, events and the corporate sector.
Montana Group employs almost 1000 people across Waikato and Tamaki Makaurau, and they come from diverse backgrounds and bring a range of knowledge and expertise.
Interested in a career here?
> Careers at Montana
What kind of person is suited to this type of work?
- Has drive and passion for their work
- Willing to learn
- Team player
- Good listener
- Ability to multi-task
- Excellent time management
- Good with people – leadership potential
- Resilient with good stamina
“If you have the drive and stick with it, you can be a quality chef. You’ve just got to have the right attitude. If you’re willing to put in the time, I’ve never met a chef that isn’t willing to put the time into training someone else.”
As well as jobs in the kitchen, they also employ people in other roles:
- Front of house
- Event Planning
The group’s Central Services Division in Hamilton also employs people in:
- Human Resources
- Branding and Communications
- Nutrition and Food Quality