Organisation key for station cook

Bailey Harris comes from an urban background but always had aspirations to be involved in the...
Bailey Harris comes from an urban background but always had aspirations to be involved in the rural sector. She is enjoying her new role as station cook at Nokomai Station. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
As a young girl growing up in the suburbs of Dunedin, Bailey Harris can recall a strong desire to one day work as a farm cook and nanny and she chuckles while she chats to Southern Rural Life with the realisation she has been doing just that.

Miss Harris, 24, has recently started a new job at Nokomai Station in Southland as the station cook, moving there from Rocklands Station at Lee Stream.

She had juggled the Rocklands cook job alongside nannying for a nearby family and took on a third job also nannying at Macraes.

"I was always on the go; it did get pretty hectic at times but it was definitely doable. I am at my most productive when I am busy," she said.

Moving to Nokomai has been a welcome change and she is enjoying focusing on just the one job as the station cook for four shepherds "and a couple more every so often". She cooks breakfast, morning tea, lunch, and dinner Monday to Friday for the staff.

The day starts about 5.30am for Miss Harris. Food preparation and cooking for the day’s meals takes most of the morning.

"I have a few hours off in the middle of the afternoon before coming back to finish dinner and serve. I have dinner with the staff which I enjoy. I do quite like my own company but it’s nice to have a debrief with the guys at the end of the day and talk about the plans for the weekend or whatever. Some of the conversations are pretty hard case, not that I would repeat them here," she said, laughing.

Being organised with meal planning and ordering is something she takes pride in and uses the afternoon downtime to write lists and double-check she does not already have the ingredients.

"It’s important to be organised — we are 25 minutes to the nearest shop at Lumsden and an hour to Queenstown so you can’t just zip to the shop if you don’t have something, you have to be able to make do. Once or twice, I have gotten halfway through baking something and realised ‘bugger, I really don’t have what I need for this’ which is when I will turn to Google and most of the time I can make it work."

She also gets inspiration from foodie influencers on TikTok and Instagram.

"YouTube is also really handy if I am not sure how to make something."

With more spare time now she is no longer nannying as well, Miss Harris is enjoying looking after the 12 station hens which supply them with plenty of eggs and she and the shepherds have planted potatoes and other vegetables to enjoy through the summer.

She laughed that sometimes she felt she had it too easy.

"When I have finished all my jobs inside and I get to potter around in the sunshine in the garden, it does feel more like I am semi-retired at the ripe old age of 24. It doesn’t really feel like work as I enjoy it so much."

There were no challenges she could not overcome in the job. Sometimes plans changed and she found herself making packed lunches at the last minute, "but that all comes with the job, so I try to not let it fluster me".

Miss Harris credits the opportunities she took at high school, particularly in food technology.

"I did my food handling certificate which has taken me quite a long way so far."

Having a strong work ethic and seeking efficiencies in the kitchen had also been useful.

"Making things from scratch keeps the food costs down and actually goes a lot further than store-bought, too," she said.

By Alice Scott


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