Age was no barrier to the skills showcased at a Taranaki hospitality event on Monday. 

The NZ Chefs Taranaki/Wanganui Hospitality Competitions, held at New Plymouth's Western Institute of Technology (Witt), brought out around 100 aspiring cooks, front of house staff, baristas, mocktail artists and more for a full-day of action.

Witt Faculty Leader of Trades Angela Ferguson said it was the fourth year the competitions had been held at the institute and students were constantly bringing new skills to the table. 

"Some of these kids are definitely taking tips off Junior Masterchef," she said. 

One of the youngest competitors, 14-year-old Patrick Kilmister from Stratford High School, won a  medal for his almond-coated salmon dish. 

Kilmister's efforts impressed the judges, spectators and his proud parents, who were left speechless when he beat several older, more experienced cooks to come second overall for his cooking efforts.

The Taranaki/Wanganui regional finals of National Secondary Schools Culinary Challenge (NSSCC) were also held, with Waitara High School and New Plymouth Boys' High School facing off for a chance to represent Taranaki at the national final in Auckland. 

Chief judge and chef Mark Wylie said the culinary challenge focused largely on communication in the kitchen, like a professional environment. 

Schools had moved away from home economics towards seeing a viable career path in hospitality, which was a great step forward, Wylie said. 

"It's less about muffins and pizzas... and more about seeing a direct pathway to a career." 

Wylie said some schools were now utilising chefs in their regions to help students learn, but homestyle cooking done well was still well-received by judges. 

The NSSCC winners on the day were NPBHS duo Takarangi Tamati and Joseph Franklin, who would now start prepping for the national final and a chance to compete in Tahiti in October. 

Taranaki placings in the competition were:

 

Fonterra Savoury Cheese Muffins: Brittany Elliot (Witt)

Regal Salmon Main: Chinatsu Kitayama (Witt)

WITT Café Breakfast: Ashley Bracegirdle (Witt)

City and Guilds Secondary Schools Team Challenge: Takarangi Tamati and Joseph Franklin (New Plymouth Boy's High School)

Natural Fare Commis Chef of the Year: Omkar Kulkarni (Witt)

La Nuova Original/Innovative Table Setting: Akayna Hovell (Inglewood HS)

Southern Hospitality Original/Innovative Mocktail: Kate McLean (Spotswood College)

Our Place/The Hour Glass Original/Innovative Cocktail - Training: Jenna O'Brien 

Escape Coffee Roasters Barista – Training: Tamara Phillips (Witt)

Escape Coffee Roasters Barista – Open: Sooyeon (Jane) Goh (Piccolo Morso)

Nice Hotel & Table Service Professional of the Year: Genevieve Lysaght (Witt)

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