Mike and I were greeted with a smile by CITTI student Elleana Rima when we arrived at the Kai Reka Bistro & Bar on Wednesday.
The Cook Islands Tertiary Training Institute (CITTI) Hospitality/Services faculty has wrapped up a year of giving lucky diners a taste of fine cuisine with the grand finale of their student-led restaurant this week.
Lead tutor Phillip Nordt led a kitchen staffed by nine of his City and Guilds diploma in Food Preparation and Cooking student, while diners in the restaurant were waited on by students completing their City and Guilds diploma in Food and Beverage Services.
The restaurant serves as the students’ final practical for the City and Guilds diploma.
“It’s all about being able to practise in a ‘live’ environment,” said Mike.
“And they’re getting better – it’s amazing seeing the training they’ve gone through...taking their techniques to the next level.”
Nordt said the menu for this Kai Reka Bistro and Bar had been simplified, focusing on ‘healthy and simple’ living which would be easily replicated in homes across the island.
“For example the fish is cooked like steak because that’s the healthiest way to do it,” he said.
However diners were still treated to five-star restaurant quality food.
And next year, CITTI will be moving to a full apprenticeship scheme for their students.
This means instead of attempting to juggle full time hospitality work with classes, the students will be primarily based in resort and restaurant kitchens around the island.
“It’s hard when they are at class during the day then don’t finish work until 11pm. And then they have to turn around and do it all again,” said Mike.
Next year there will instead be limited class time to work around their busy culinary schedules.
Mike said the school had received a great response from the hospitality industry on Rarotonga.
“So far there’s been a really good reaction. It’s aligned with what they’re doing and what they’re asking for.”