Budding chef pursues dream
Award-winning young chef Yiyang Song is making a name for himself in the hospitality industry after studying in Wellington
Name: Yiyang Song
School/institution: Le Cordon Bleu New Zealand - Diplôme Avancé Culinaire in Cuisine
Home city and country: China
Why did you choose the culinary arts/how did you find your passion for the culinary arts?
I spent a lot of time in the kitchen while my Mum was cooking when I was young.
What is your favourite thing about studying at Le Cordon Bleu New Zealand?
Cooking with classmates and sharing ideas.
How do you think Le Cordon Bleu New Zealand helped you to reach your culinary goals?
The school gave me a lot of professional knowledge and skills and provided me with plenty of internship opportunities.
Tell us about your culinary journey so far - study/internships/work/business? Biggest achievements?
I am currently working for a fine dining restaurant in central Wellington called Atlas. Biggest achievement would be being awarded emerging chef of the year in the 2019 Felix Wellington hospitality awards.
What’s the best thing about being chef de partie?
You get to be in charge of your own section but also have a chance to learn heaps of thing from others.
What are your main responsibilities? Talk us through your average working day...
I’m in charge of all the garnish for main dishes, and training interns/new kitchen staff members.
Is there anything that surprised you when starting the role?
The amount of things I needed to prepare was huge. So I learnt to be organised and plan forward.
How do you work with your team? Any management tips?
I am usually pretty chilled and easy going but when it comes to food I am quite serious - I have certain rules for interns when they are doing prep for my section. It has to be on point.
Do you still meet with Le Cordon Bleu graduates?
Always. Wellington hospitality is a very small industry.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
Ben Shewry [New Zealand chef and restaurateur who owns Attica in Melbourne]
What are your culinary goals/dreams for the future?
To open my own restaurant.
What was the biggest cultural difference you noticed between your home country and Wellington/New Zealand?
Very different food ingredients and ways of cooking.
What are the differences between your classes/tutors/lecturers/teacher here in Wellington compared to back home?
In Wellington teachers are always encouraging you to ask them questions and the relationship between teachers and students are more like friends. You can have open conversations with them.
Are you thinking of staying in Wellington after your studies to work? Why?
Yes. Wellington is a city with a great food culture. People love food and are willing to spend money on high quality food.
Have you participated in any Study in Wellington programmes? If so, what were the benefits for you?
I started Alumni Connect one year ago during Wellington Lockdown. It allows me to help people who were just getting into this industry but got completely lost because of this big pandemic.
What is your favourite thing to do in Wellington?
Hiking and trying new restaurants.
What is your favourite Wellington meal/place to eat?
Mason bar in Newtown.