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Jacklin Pillay

" I’m really passionate about cooking – I did it because I love it. It grounds me.”

Jacklin always wanted to work with food

 

It was while she was at Manurewa High School, where she met Mrs Chandra - her hospitality and catering teacher – who guided her on the right path and helped her realise her dreams. She supported Jacklin to enter and compete in her first ever cooking competition (which turned out to be of many) and from there, things really started to happen.

 

After finishing up at Manurewa High, there was nowhere else Jacklin wanted to continue to learn about cooking and further develop her craft, than Manukau Institute of Technology.  So, towards the end of high school, when asked where she was going to apply, Jacklin had it all planned out.

 

“I love chefing. It’s what I was born to do. When talking about studying and the different options out there, a lot of people were suggesting the University of Auckland or AUT but I just knew I had to go to MIT as it matched the practical with the theory and had a great reputation.  It’s where I wanted to go.”

 

And go she did. After enrolling at Manukau Institute of Technology and securing a scholarship to cover her first year, Jacklin not only completed and graduated from her Diploma in Culinary Practice, she excelled every step of the way. During her first year, Jacklin was awarded Best Practical Student in the National Certificate in Hospitality (Basic Cookery, Level 3), followed by Best Student when she completed her Certificate in Advanced Cookery (Level 4), before impressively going onto winning the title of Best Overall Student when graduating. How is that for top of the class!

 

And that’s not all. While studying at MIT, Jacklin was one of the few students in her year to be selected for and compete in the World Skills Competition in Brazil, representing New Zealand for cooking. The World Skills Competition is regarded as the “Skills of Olympics” and takes place in a different country once every two years. Bringing together over 1,000 young artistic and talented specialists (aged 22 and under) from more than 60 countries competing in 42 varieties of skills, ranging from welding to cooking to web design.

 

After training for the competition for two years, she spent nearly a month in Brazil preparing for the four-day event and went on to compete against 40 other countries. Jacklin credits her MIT lecturer and mentor, Craig Lucas, who trained her and supported her in Brazil for the experience. Not to mention her devoted husband, the eager taste tester for many of her creations.

 

“It was incredible to be able to go to Brazil! I loved it. Even though it was really challenging, being in a country you’ve never been to before and working with produce that’s foreign to you – it sure made the mystery challenges hard when you don’t know what the ingredients are! But it was really good seeing and learning more about other countries and cultures. I made so many friends, it was just an exciting, intense, crazy time. I don’t think I would have gotten the chance to go to Brazil if I wasn’t studying at MIT.”

 

During her high school years, Jacklin worked part-time at Urban Soul in Manukau as a chef and baker, hustling hard on Friday nights and during the day on the weekends. After finishing her studies at MIT, Jacklin started working full-time at Urban Soul and was approached to be the Head Chef of the very busy Karaka bistro but soon discovered she was pregnant and decided to instead focus on her baby and the next stage of her life.

 

“I’m really proud of all the things I’ve done so far. There are no words. I’m really passionate about cooking – I did it because I love it. It grounds me.”

 

Now Jacklin is thoroughly enjoying her time as a stay-at-home mum with her 18-month-old son. As though being a new mum wasn’t keeping her busy enough, Jacklin has recently started her own cake business – selling her tasty wares through her Facebook page Cakes & Things.

 

After spending $290 on a cake for her son’s first birthday Jacklin wondered, “What if someone else is wanting to order a beautiful cake for their child’s birthday but it’s too expensive?”

 

Putting her thoughts into action and following her love for baking, Jacklin started baking cakes from home while her son sleeps. She makes gorgeous themed cakes for kids’ parties and just made her first wedding cake – a semi-naked cake with fresh red and white rose’s - over the weekend. For Jacklin, it’s just not about the money. While she would love to continue to grow her business, it was important for her that her cakes were not only special, but affordable for parents.

 

So, with several competitions, a bag full of medals and numerous awards under her belt, becoming a Mother and starting her own business; what else does the future hold for Jacklin?

 

“I would love to expand my business – Cakes & Things - this is my passion now. Hopefully one day, I could go and teach somewhere. I would love to share my knowledge and demonstrate the skills I’ve learnt over the years. I would just love to share it and pass it on to others who are as passionate as me about cooking.”

 

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