Inspired by Cinderella, an Otago Polytechnic student has designed an award-winning dessert which is serving as her meal ticket to a three-day Australasian master class and competition in Melbourne.
Stephanie Peirce (21) won the New Zealand final of the Proud to be a Chef competition with a dish she designed for the pastry course component of a bachelor of culinary arts degree.
It has qualified her for the Australasian final, comprising the region's top 30 trainee chefs at a cook-off in February.
Another three New Zealand finalists have been selected for the Melbourne event.
Miss Peirce said her dessert was inspired by Cinderella and the transformation of the golden carriage into a pumpkin at midnight.
Originally from Millers Flat, Miss Peirce incorporated pumpkin in reference to her family which owned Peirce Orchard (the Pumpkin Place).
She started cooking early and by age 6 could make pancakes on her own.
"For as long as I can remember I always wanted to be a chef and was always baking with mum and grandma. Working with food doesn't really seem like a job, I really enjoy it," she said.
Miss Peirce was also a keen artist and chose the polytechnic course because it offered her the chance to combine her passions for food and design.
Her win was even more special because she had not previously entered a culinary competition.
"It is so fantastic to win an award for work I did for my degree.
"It means all the work I put into designing and developing this dish has an application in the real world," she said.
Miss Peirce is interested in becoming a pastry chef and eventually a culinary teacher.
Three of her classmates - Rosie Soper, Amanda Ede and Sarah Stevens - were also among the competition's 10 New Zealand finalists, selected from about 65 applicants.
Bachelor of culinary arts programme manager Tony Heptinstall said it was a significant achievement, as no other institution had had more than two students in the national final.
The three-year Otago Polytechnic course was launched this year with 50 students, he said.