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Zach Meads

Cookery and Baking Graduate

A photograph of Zach Means in UCOL's commercial kitchen

“I’m making a difference doing what I love.”

What brought you to UCOL?

I’ve always had an interest in cooking. While I was at school I did the STAR and U-Skills Academy Cookery programmes at UCOL. These programmes and the amazing lecturer support helped kick-start my career in hospitality. From there I’ve progressed through the different Cookery and Baking programmes. 

What have been some of the highlights for you while at UCOL?

I’ve had the opportunity to compete in regional, national and international cooking competitions. These have been great for meeting chefs from around the country and testing my skills against them. In 2017 I won Commis Chef of the Year at the New Zealand Hospitality Awards. It felt really great to win, especially after coming second the year before.  

 


That’s impressive. What dishes did you make for this competition? 

I had to do a vegetarian entrée, a beef main, and a desert of my choice. For the entrée I did smoked tofu and cheese panna cotta with vegetables. The main was a roasted beef sirloin dish. My desert was Malibu mousse, lime jelly, mango crèmeux, lime macaron, and coconut snow.

Did you come up with the dishes yourself?

My lecturer Mark Smith and I came up with them and worked on them throughout the year. Before the nationals, we did a fundraising dinner where we got to trial cooking the dishes for the public. Mark has been a huge support, and I couldn’t have done what I have without him. With all of his experience, he knew what we had to work on and what to add to the dishes. He was able to keep me focused on ways to improve the dishes.

Do you see yourself competing after you’ve finished at UCOL?

For sure. After three years of competing, it's definitely a passion. I like pushing myself, and it's a different experience to cooking in a restaurant. It's a lot of fun, and it's good to be able to show your passion off to other people outside of a restaurant. 

Where do you see yourself in the future?

I would love to travel and learn other countries’ cuisines. I want to experience the industry and work hard, but ultimately I dream of starting my own restaurant. At the end of the day, I want to help inspire students and future students to keep going hard at achieving their goals.

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