Porirua College duo hope to cook their way to Tahiti

Porirua College students Wiki Mackey (left) and Michala Rei will represent Wellington in the National Secondary Schools ...
MATTHEW SUMMERS

Porirua College students Wiki Mackey (left) and Michala Rei will represent Wellington in the National Secondary Schools Culinary Challenge on Friday.

Two girls from Wellington's lowest decile school are heading to Auckland to take on the country's best secondary school chefs.

Michala Rei and Wiki Mackey cooked their way to success in the Wellington regionals with a entree of beetroot gelee with chevre, orange and walnut salad and spiced beetroot and orange. A main course of stuffed chicken supreme and Madeira jus, with Dauphinoise potatoes, buttered carrots and broccolini followed.

The Porirua College students have been tinkering with the dishes since May and hope they will outtaste those of the nine other finalists in the National Secondary Schools Culinary Challenge on Friday.

The beetroot gelee entree that helped Wiki and Michala win the Wellington regional competition in May.
MATTHEW SUMMERS

The beetroot gelee entree that helped Wiki and Michala win the Wellington regional competition in May.

Michala, 18, and Wiki, 17, have perfected the menu by making and remaking it "too many times to count". The dishes, selected by teacher Vanya Gunson and Whitireia tutor Sonya Martin, were first tested out on the girls' family, friends and teachers, Michala said. "They enjoyed it - they ate it all.

"Every Saturday we've had to come in. It's been hours at a time preparing and cooking."

If they win Friday's challenge, they will head to the international competition in Tahiti. "My god, I don't even have the words for that. I would be so excited. All this hard work would have been worth it," Michala said.

She was feeling a bit of pressure anticipating this week's cook-off. "Very nervous. We have to complete the entree and the main within 90 minutes. It depends on the day - heaps of things could go wrong."

But all the nerves had not put the girls off considering heading a restaurant kitchen for their careers. "It was something I've always done since I was little. It was something that came naturally," Michala said.

Gunson, the college's hospitality teacher, said she was very proud of the pair. "They've worked really hard for this, while also trying to do the work for [NCEA] level 3 and sporting commitments - it's been a bit of a juggling act for them," she said.

"It's not easy. It's been a long road. Watching them over the past three months, how their skills and techniques have increased, and they've had to handle criticism along the way, they've done really well."

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