|Why did you decide to participate in the 2013 Culinary Fare?
I knew about this competition last year from university. But at that time, I did not know much about this industry. During my one year senior study, while I was officially working at the hotel, my passion for hospitality has increased. It motivated me to see more, know more and experience more in this industry.
Who assisted you with your entries and practice to the Culinary Fare categories you competed in?
Families and friends’ support and inspiration.
Teachers and tutors assisted me in the practical work at university.
Ron helped me to gain a greater understanding of the wine list.
Lorna gave me lots of useful advice since she has similar experience.
What was the single most helpful thing you think you did in preparation for the comps?
I think success cannot consist of one single thing. It's a combination of diverse aspects: people’s support, encouragement, inspiration- and self-effort. But if I really need to answer this question, I would say overall it was the tutor's help. Without anyone’s help, I wouldn't know how to prepare and do things properly.
What would you do differently if you competed again (what did you learn from your mistakes?)
If I'll compete again, I will definitely do more research and prepare better. Hospitality is a fast-paced industry and I have to keep updating and improving myself in order to gain the competitive advantage... I would love to keep improving myself every single day, not just before the competition.
What was the most challenging/difficult thing about the comps?
This was my first time to participate in this kind of competition. I was still hesitating before I handed in the application form (ha ha). I applied to enter the class of YOUNG SOMMELIER; then I was told that I was moved up to the class of TOP SOMMELIER as there were no other entrants of young somm- which was even more challenging! One of the competition sections was BLIND TASTING. We were given three white wines and three red wines, and identified their grape varieties, years and regions. I think that was the most difficult thing because I don't drink that much in my daily life.
What was the most enjoyable aspect of the comps?
It was great to take part, because it broadened my knowledge and widened my horizons. I enjoyed quite a lot things in this competition. Firstly, when I was preparing for the theory and discussion of New Zealand and International wines- I learnt more facts and interesting stories of wines which was very satisfying. I now understand the high standard of beverage service... Secondly, when I was competing, I started acquainting myself with other candidates and judges. We shared experiences and advice, which helps for future career development.
What advice would you give to others who are considering entering the comps in 2014?
If you have a dream or if you have passion, just go for it. No matter whether you win a medal or not, you are still a winner. You gain wonderful memories- you win an unforgettable experience. And if you decide you will enter, you should PREPARE WELL and try your best.
What are your career goals in hospitality?
Interpersonal relationship is the most important aspect within hospitality. I like communicating with people, whether they are colleagues or customers. Therefore, I love to work at the front of house. In addition, I also like to be organised. Once I have a firm foundation in 'front of house' work, I would love to move into administration and management roles, and move forward in my career. Hotel and airport will be my prior choices in the future.
Minnie's personal food & wine match recommendation:
Shimin (Minnie) Gao, NZ Young Sommelier of the Year, Culinary Fare 2013
Culinary Fare Winners Info
- New Executive Chef at Jet Park Hotel, Auckland Airport
- New Artwork by Rex Homan, Jet Park Hotel Auckland Airport.
- Top 10 Things to Do While in Auckland- Jet Park Hotel.
- Te Maroro Restaurant, Auckland Airport Achieves Beef and Lamb Excellence Award 2017!
- Tourism's Growth Industry in New Zealand, Jet Park Hotel.