Culinary journey brings clarity

As I find myself on the cusp of completing my culinary arts degree, I can't help but reflect on the journey that brought me here. In just a few short days, I'll be one step closer to proudly holding that degree in my hands, a testament to the blood, sweat and tears I’ve poured into this academic endeavour.

The finish line is within sight, yet there's still that hint of anticipation, a touch of nerves, as I prepare for my final presentation, trying to distil a lifetime's worth of culinary knowledge into one powerful moment.

This journey, like many things in life, began as a modest exploration. A simple search, a desire to find fulfilment in my spare moments. Little did I know this online exploration for self-discovery would evolve into something profound. Fate, as they say, often has its own plans, unfolding just when it's meant to.

In the background of my journey, my culinary dreams lingered at the edges of my life, just out of reach. The idea of owning a cafe or a culinary business occasionally crossed my mind, but something held me back, a lingering uncertainty that needed addressing. As I worked in various culinary roles, gaining experience and sharpening my skills, my heart found its true joy in cooking for friends and family. Yet, my ambition to elevate this passion into a livelihood remained elusive. That entrepreneurial spark remained just out of reach, leaving me questioning why I couldn't take that leap.

It’s through the lens of my degree that I've gained the clarity I've been searching for. This journey has revealed that while the culinary world is vast and diverse, not every path is a perfect fit for every person. This degree has been a journey of self-discovery, a map that guided me through the warren of my own preferences and aptitudes. It was only by understanding who I am that I could chart a new direction, one that aligns perfectly with my passions and aspirations. I find it ironic that a culinary arts degree has catalysed new-found clarity about myself at this stage in my life. It wasn’t easy, I faced resistance, shed more than a few tears, but emerged with confidence moving forward.

So, as I approach the culmination of my degree, I stand proudly in the person I've become, ready to embark on this new culinary adventure. My path may have shifted, but the passion, authenticity, and sense of purpose that have driven me throughout my life remain steadfast. With this fresh clarity, I look forward to creating, sharing, and inspiring through the world of culinary storytelling.

As I immerse myself in the final week of study, I’m reminded of the importance of sustenance, not just for the body but also for my soul. During this time, it’s easy for me to skip meals, but there’s something special about crafting a dish that’s not just nourishment but a reflection of love, creativity, and the journey that has brought me here.

Each dish I create, like the nutrient-rich green juice, the wholesome salad with salmon and citrus dressing, or the roasted cherry tomatoes on toasted sourdough with ricotta and buffalo mozzarella, is a testament to the values of whanaungatanga and manaakitanga that have guided me through this adventure.

These recipes have fuelled my culinary quest, and I hope they may bring inspiration, comfort, and a sense of togetherness to your table, just as they have to mine.

Roasted cherry tomato on sourdough toast with ricotta and buffalo mozzarella

This is the dish I dream about during winter, eagerly awaiting the return of sun-ripened tomatoes. It embodies everything I adore about Italian flavours on toast and is a reflection of me on a plate. Inspired by my nephew during a challenging period, it’s a cherished memory of our shared love for good food and quality time spent together.

Serves 4

For the tomatoes

200g punnet cherry tomatoes

1 clove garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

1 Tbsp fresh oregano, roughly chopped or ½ tsp dried oregano

1 pinch chilli flakes

1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper

For the toast

125g fresh buffalo mozzarella torn into bite-size pieces

125g fresh ricotta

8 slices sourdough, cut 2cm thick

1 clove garlic, cut in half lengthwise (doesn’t need to be peeled)

135g roasted capsicum or sun-dried tomato pesto

8 fresh basil leaves, torn

Balsamic glaze to drizzle (sparingly)

Flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper


To prepare the roasted tomatoes

Preheat your oven to 180°C.

In a small, lipped baking tray, combine the cherry tomatoes, sliced garlic, oregano, chilli flakes and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Roast in the oven for about six minutes until the tomatoes start to blister, then set them aside, retaining the tray juices.

To prepare the toast

In a small bowl, mix the buffalo mozzarella and ricotta. Season with salt and pepper.

Toast both sides of the sourdough bread on a grill pan or in a sandwich press. Rub each slice with the halved garlic clove and brush with olive oil.

Spread each toasted slice with a layer of roasted capsicum or sundried tomato pesto.

Follow with a generous spoonful of the mozzarella and ricotta mixture.

Add a few roasted tomatoes to each slice, drizzle with the reserved pan juices, and garnish with the torn fresh basil leaves.

Finish with small dots of balsamic glaze (you need just a touch) and season with salt and pepper to taste.

 - Recipe notes

Balsamic glaze, also known as balsamic reduction, is a thick, syrupy sauce made from balsamic vinegar. It is created by simmering balsamic vinegar over a low heat until it thickens and becomes concentrated.

For ease, I like to keep a store-bought version in my pantry.

Vitality greens

In the midst of a busy study and work routine, I’ve found my go-to pick-me-up: a green smoothie that boosts my energy and lifts my spirits. It’s become my daily dose of vitality, ready to power me through the day. This highly nutritious and delicious juice is the perfect choice for those who are typically resistant to greens. 

Serves 2


½ cup frozen mango

½ small frozen banana

½ avocado

1 tsp fresh ginger, finely grated

1 tsp fresh turmeric, finely grated or

½ tsp ground turmeric

2 tsp LSA

60g fresh spinach or rocket

1 Tbsp fresh mint or coriander

1 ½ cups coconut water, iced water or half and half


Place all ingredients in a blender and blitz till smooth. Serve garnished with fresh blueberries and mint (optional).

 - Recipe Notes

I keep a supply of peeled, sliced bananas in my freezer. However, you can use fresh banana which will result in a thinner consistency.

For a low-carb option, substitute the mango and banana with frozen antioxidant-rich blueberries. Please note this will alter the colour from green to brown.

Turmeric contains curcumin, an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound beneficial for mood and brain health.

LSA (linseed, sunflower seeds and almonds) is rich in essential nutrients including protein (power) and fibre.

Zesty springtime salmon salad

This salad offers a fresh and vibrant blend of spring textures and flavours, complemented by tender, cooked salmon dressed in a zesty, citrus-infused liquid gold. It’s highly nutritious and absolutely delicious, and perfect for lunch or a light dinner.

Serves 2

For the salmon

200g fresh salmon fillet

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the dressing

[Makes about ½ cup]

1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger

1 tsp finely grated fresh turmeric or ½ teaspoon ground turmeric

1Tbsp liquid honey

Juice and zest of 1 medium orange

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the salad

2 radishes, topped and tailed, washed, and thinly sliced

1 inch piece of cucumber, washed and thinly sliced

3 asparagus spears, washed and peeled into thin strips

¼ red onion, finely sliced

120g mixed salad leaves

½ small beetroot, peeled, thinly sliced into rounds, placed on paper towels to absorb excess moisture (this will prevent colour staining other ingredients)

½ avocado, sliced

75g feta

2 Tbsp slivered almonds, toasted

1 Tbsp pea shoots or microgreens (optional)

Flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


To prepare the salmon

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Heat a small ovenproof frypan over medium-high heat. Season the salmon fillet and place it skin down in the frypan. The skin will naturally release oils, eliminating the need for additional oil.

Cook until the skin starts to crisp, around four minutes, checking every so often to ensure it’s not burning.

When golden and crispy, turn the fillet over and place in the oven for a further five minutes.

The salmon is ready when you can insert a knife through the thickest part with no resistance.

Loosely cover with foil and set aside while you make the salad.

To make the salad

Combine the radishes, cucumber, asparagus and red onion in a bowl.

Place a layer of salad leaves on to the base of a large bowl or platter, followed by a sprinkle of half the mixed salad ingredients.

Add half of the beetroot, avocado,

feta and almonds, evenly distributing them.

Drizzle a tablespoon of the dressing over this layer and season with salt and pepper.

Repeat the process by starting with another layer of salad leaves, followed by the remaining ingredients.

Separate the skin from the salmon and set aside. Gently break the salmon into pieces and distribute evenly over the salad.

End with a scattering of pea shoots or microgreens, and crispy skin (if desired), for garnish.

 - Recipe notes

I like to layer my salads so there is an even distribution of dressing, ingredients and seasoning in every mouthful. Feel free to build the salad in any way that feels natural to you.