WelTec students design, cook and serve Wellington’s hospitality VIPs at newly reopened Bistro 5

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Wellington’s top hotel and restaurant general managers have been invited to dine at WelTec’s newly reopened student-run restaurant, Bistro 52. 

Bistro 52 is opening its doors to the public for lunch and dinner sittings for the first time since the Covid-19 lockdowns, and students are buzzing with excitement at the opportunity to design menus, cook, and serve customers in a fine dining environment. And are a little nervous too, to know that future employers could be among the invited guests.

Examples of tantalising courses on the menu, which also offer a student-inspired wine match, are: coconut and panko crumbed squid with sriracha mayo; turmeric roasted fish with pickled cucumber, cauliflower puree, and charred broccoli; crispy churros with warm fudge chocolate sauce - just to name a few!

Jess HoskinsJess Hoskins - WelTec Level 4 Cookery student

Programme Manager for WelTec’s School of Hospitality, Ben Shadbolt, has invited the hospitality professionals to dine at Bistro 52 to meet and experience the up-and-coming talent soon headed for the Wellington foodie scene.

“Hospitality is one of those sectors where it is often ‘who you know’ that will help you get your first job. Connecting industry with our students is a way they can start building connections for the future.

“Students do not typically frequent Wellington’s top hotels and fine dining restaurants, and often feel intimidated by these environments - so we thought we would bring the movers and shakers directly to them, and help bridge that gap.

“The students deserve this chance to shine, following the hard yards they have put into their coursework - theory which has been done a lot of the time remotely during lockdown. Bistro 52 is an opportunity for them to put their theory into practice, as well as start building networks - a critical part of success in this sector,” says Ben.

Lily Davies, who finished at Horowhenua College last year, is completing her Level 4 Food & Beverage Certificate at WelTec and is brimming with excitement to get stuck into working front-of-house at the Bistro.

“I love serving people and making sure they have a good time, it will be so great to put what I have learnt to the test, and prepare and serve a three-course meal for some of the hotel general managers who have recently come in to talk to us in class to share their own footsteps into hospitality.”

Lily has enjoyed the barista, cocktail making and customer service skills she has learnt, and when borders open, sees opportunity to use her skills to travel. “With Mum and Dad both as chefs I saw hospitality as an obvious pathway for me too. Having the chance to be in a real-life setting at Bistro 52 is a perfect way to put my skills to the test!”

Jess Hoskins, will be working alongside Lily at Bistro 52, but will be in the kitchen preparing the menu. Jess is doing her Level 4 Cookery Certificate at WelTec, having spent a few years working in the industry, most recently at a Sicilian deli in Melbourne before heading home during lockdown to start her WelTec course. Jess also spent time at Waikato University after school doing environmental planning, but decided university wasn’t for her, and instead wanted to work in hospitality and set off overseas. “I can’t wait for us to pull together at Bistro 52 in a real life, pressured environment.”

Jess Hoskins and Lily Davies editedJess Hoskins and Lily Davies - WelTec School of Hospitality students

Students who graduate from WelTec this year will be in a unique position. The hospitality industry relies heavily on workers from overseas, but Ben thinks that having our borders shut may be an opportunity for students to take up these opportunities.

“With our borders closed, now is an excellent opportunity for young graduates to get positions that may have been filled by more experienced chefs and servers on their ‘OE’ in New Zealand from Europe, America and elsewhere,” says Ben who runs the WelTec programmes.

“I see this as an opportunity for restaurants and hotels to ‘grow their own’,’ he says. “If students work hard to get a good job from the outset, and can see opportunities for growth, then they are more likely to stay in a job for longer - which in the long term, is better for our hospitality industry.”

Anthony Dey, General Manager at the Brentwood Hotel, who has come in to dine at Bistro 52 with team members says: “As the industry looks to rebuild its workforce post Covid, employers will be looking for enthusiastic, well trained candidates, and the quality of the WelTec School of Hospitality learning experience in Bistro 52 will ensure the students are well placed to take on these opportunities as they arise.

“Employers will be looking to recruit local talent to fulfil roles and invest in further developing these people towards future leadership roles, providing excellent opportunities for graduates,” says Anthony.

Bistro 52 is the training restaurant for WelTec School of Hospitality, where cookery and food service students can hone their skills in state of the art facilities. It also offers the public a chance to experience fine dining at a fraction of the price.

The restaurant is run by students completing their New Zealand Certificate in Cookery (Level 4),  New Zealand Food and Beverage Service (Level 4), and also offers a coffee service by students who are perfecting their barista skills.

Bistro 52 is open until 22 October, Tuesday to Thursday for lunch and dinner. Members of the public are more than welcome.