Mikael Aranga - Success after Nestlé Toque d'Or
Since the conclusion of the 2017 Nestlé Toque d'Or competition, aspiring chef Mikael Aranga has been on a winning streak that shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Shortly after her team from Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology Rotorua campus won the event, Mikael was offered a job working for Eurest at the Energy Events Centre in Rotorua.
Mikael says she thoroughly enjoyed learning and creating food for large guest numbers.
"The months spent working there as a trainee pastry chef proved to be a very exciting experience for me."
Unfortunately due to mounting student debts, she ultimately opted to move back to Perth in Western Australia as a way of saving money.
Despite the upheaval, Mikael says the decision proved to be a beneficial move.
"Since arriving in Australia, I've got my foot in the door at a new restaurant which opens in two weeks at the Perth Optus Stadium."
Located east of the CBD next to the Swan River, the 60,000 seat multi-purpose Stadium will host a variety of sports and entertainment events including Australian Football Leage, International and Big Bash Legaue cricket, soccer, rugby league and union plus concerts.
The surrounding Stadium Park will provide year-round access for visitors of all ages to enjoy the nature playgrounds, recreational facilities and dining in the restaurants that overlook the Swan River.
The new Optus Stadium which is owned by the Western Australia State Government opened to the public in January of this year.
Mikael credits her involvement in Nestlé Toque d'Or for giving her the confidence to take a firm stance with her career development.
"It opened my eyes to the wealth of opportunities out there in the culinary world. It showed me that the world truly is my oyster and, now that I have a strong sense of self-belief, I feel ready to tackle anything."
Mikael also believes she acquired an array of vital technical skills from her time in the competition that have helped her become an efficient and diligent worker in the kitchen.
"The judges' feedback was invaluable and helped me to focus on areas where I could improve. As a result, I've been able to really sharpen up and develop by knife skills since the event."
For this year's competitors, Mikael says students will be battling nerves and excitement to maintain a level head.
"My advice to those competitors is to beleive in yourself, block out the world, get into your cooking zone and, most importantly, have fun.
"Also remember that practice makes perfect, and sometimes mistakes can be a chefs' greatest creation."
On competition day, Mikael says the most challenging dish for her was the lamb.
"It tested me because I was in charge of frenching the rack and ensuring it was cooked to perfections. But with lots of practice we were able to completely nail the dish together and win the top award."
The 28th Nestlé Toque d'Or will be held on Monday 13 August 2018 at the Auckland Showgrounds. An award dinner will be held later in the evening at the Heritage Auckland where the winning team will be announced.
Sponsors of this year's event are: Nestlé Professional, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, vegetables.co.nz, Akaroa Salmon, House of Knives and Moffat.