The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Pacific Technical and Further Education (Pacific TAFE) students performed above expectations as they placed well in respective categories at the FMF National Salon Culinaire 2022 that was held last week at the Sheraton Fiji Resort in conjunction with HOTEC 2022.
USP’s Salon Team won two gold medals and one bronze medal. This is the best performance by a team from USP at the National Salon Culinaire to date as previous teams in 2017 and 2019 won one gold medal for each year, respectively.
Tourism and Hospitality Programme Coordinator Pasirio Kitione said, “The 2022 result was a first. Two gold medals with two students, Ivan Chandra and Neelam Jyotika, scoring the highest marks in their respective classes as they competed against industry personnel with extensive professional cooking experience from 5 Star international brand resort kitchens.”
Mr Kitione also highlighted the categories each of the USP students was part of:
Ivan Chandra won gold and the highest score
Farhaan Ali won Bronze
- Class 9: Classic local dish with a modern twist
Neelam Jyotika won gold and the highest score
Head of College of Continuing Vocational Education and Training at Pacific TAFE, Nilesh Kumar acknowledged his team’s hard work.
“This is a very proud moment for USP. It was not an easy feat, as the students had to rub shoulders against the best in the industry. I am extremely proud of my colleagues in the Tourism and Hospitality programme. They have worked tirelessly to prepare the students for the competition.”
“This is a true testimony of not just our programmes, but also the quality of our trainers at Pacific TAFE. I congratulate Ivan, Farhaan and Neelam and wish them all the best as they prepare to join the industry upon completing their Diploma in Culinary Arts & Management from USP Pacific TAFE,” Mr Kumar added.
Sharing a little about their experience during the competition, Ms Neelam Jyotika acknowledged the support provided by the staff and Mr Kitione, in helping them during their training and preparations.
“This competition was challenging, and I never expected the results that we got. I knew the menu drawn up by Mr Kitione surprised the judges when we worked to put it together,” she added.
Part-time Chef at Hilton Resort and part-time student Farhaan Ali said, “This will be an experience that I will always remember. We grew up watching shows like Master Chef, and now we are competing alongside some of the best chefs in the country. It was intimidating, but it has given me so much confidence.”
Fulltime student Ivan Chand said it was an incredible experience just competing, to see big brands and the big tourism industry.
“I would say preparation and being organised well was what got us through this competition. We had sleepless nights, and some nights no sleep at all. It took us two weeks to prepare, and Chef Kitione, Ms Reema, and USP Pacific TAFE staff helped us do well.”
Patisserie trainer, Reema Singh shared how all the training and practice by the students took place outside of their class times into the evenings during the weekdays and on Saturdays and Sundays.
“Farhaan Ali, who works part-time at the Hilton Fiji Resort kitchen, would finish work at 10 pm and get to the kitchen for practice on Friday evenings, again on Saturdays and Sundays and leave for work at noon. Neelam Jyotika drove in from Ba, where she resides for training, weekdays and the weekends,” she added.
“I would leave for home late during the weekday evenings after training and get back to Nadi Hospitality Tourism and Training Centre on Saturdays and Sundays to work with the students.”
She added that this competition had given USP Pacific TAFE a platform to showcase its students’ great talent and build their network and confidence.