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Students get ready to cook off at Culinary Fare

The 18th Annual Waikato Culinary Fare will take place late next month and entries are now open.

Wintec has proudly held the Waikato Culinary Fare, in partnership with Cater Plus, since its conception in 2004. 

Almost 300 intermediate, secondary and tertiary wannabe chefs showcased their skills at the Waikato Culinary Fare last year and this year the competition is expected to get the kitchen just as hot.

The fare sees students travel from all over the North Island to take part in live food challenges to compete for gold, silver or bronze awards.

While the Culinary Fare, held at Wintec's Rotokauri campus, is predominantly a high school event, there are also categories for tertiary students.

Chef and Wintec senior academic staff member for hospitality Josh Kanara-Bailey said schools were happy that the event had moved back to term two this year, as in the previous two years, due to Covid, they had to hold it later in the year.

“Because of the better timing, we are probably expecting a stronger number of participants this year. We’ve also reached out to a few new schools this year and have heard back from returning ones about how excited they are.”

Josh also said with all the Institutes of Technology and Polytechs (ITPs) now becoming business divisions of Te Pūkenga they are looking at creating a new Te Pūkenga tertiary category.

“That probably won’t happen this year, but we are inviting all of the Te Pūkenga ITPs to register and compete this year and hope to have a category specifically for them next year.”

Josh said he would encourage students of all ages to enter as it’s a really good learning experience.

“I’ve been visiting local schools this year to talk about cooking during the cost-of-living crisis and how you can still make good healthy food. That’s something that has been on the forefront for a lot of people and will be part of the competition this year.”

Josh said his daughter, who is in intermediate, will be competing this year.

“She’s excited, but she’s told me she isn’t telling her teacher that I’m her dad, which I think is hilarious,” he said.

He said another big difference this year was that the Wintec marae, Te Kōpū Mānia, would be accommodating out of towners coming to Kirikiriroa for the event.

“I’m excited about having the marae as accommodation for our visitors as they get welcomed with a pōwhiri, are catered for, and get to experience staying on a marae for two nights. It’s open to anyone coming from out of town.”

Josh said they’d recruited some new judges this year too, including some past students who had gone on to do some great things.

“It’s an amazing event for students. I’m always in awe of the skills they have and the things they can do. They might do sports or other kinds of tournaments too, but this is something different that they can compete in and gain some great cooking skills that they can use forever.”

Josh said if people wanted to get involved, they were still looking for a few more volunteers to help out at the fare with different general duties and would be happy to hear from Wintec staff or school teachers, just email him at

Peter Skelton, Team Manager, Hospitality, Centre for Trades Wintec | Te Pūkenga said it was exciting to see such an increase in involvement from secondary schools, tertiary providers, and the hospitality industry, both in Waikato and across New Zealand.

“The Waikato Culinary Fare has grown to become the largest regional competition of its type in New Zealand. This has been made possible by the support of the event sponsors and the wider hospitality industry. This event allows our emerging hospitality stars to compete, gaining valuable skills and experience through participation.

“We wish all competitors the best of luck and look forward to seeing your skills and innovation shine through your efforts. For those of you who progress to the NZ Hospitality Championships, we wish you well. On behalf of the team at the Wintec Centre for Hospitality, we acknowledge all who have contributed to the Waikato Culinary Fare,” he said.

The event will be held at Wintec | Te Pūkenga Hospitality Centre, L Block, Rotokauri Campus, Hamilton. For more information or to enter the fare, check out the website here.

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