Specialised Training for a Samoan Cook and New Zealand Prime Minister’s Scholar

Ms Luaipouomalo Uliefu (Pou) studied full-time at SHATEC, until end-March 2023, after receiving the New Zealand Prime Minister’s Scholarship award. She is originally from Samoa, and has been residing in New Zealand for nearly 20 years.

Ms Luaipouomalo Uliefu (called ‘Pou’ for short) dreams of providing her four children a better future and undergoing formal study to advance her career as a chef. So when she landed the opportunity of a lifetime as one of 111 award recipients of the New Zealand Prime Minister’s Scholarship, Pou was ecstatic to get on board the biggest achievement of her career.

An initiative by the New Zealand Government and Education New Zealand, the Prime Minister’s Scholarships offer funding to full-time study overseas in Asia and Latin America. As a 30-something-year-old adult learner originally from Samoa, Pou chose SHATEC, the International Hotel and Tourism School to fulfill her six-week scholarship and get certified in Food Nutrition II.


Pou was presented with the SHATEC Certificate of Achievement in Food Nutrition II at the close of her training stint in SHATEC. She is pictured with SHATEC CEO Mr Lim Boon Kwee.

SHATEC is proud to be the host institution for Pou’s international education stint in Singapore. Pou received training and experience in professional food preparation to take home to New Zealand, giving her an advantage in her current position as Head Cook at Palms Lifecare & Village in Auckland.

We sat down with Pou to learn more about her culinary experiences back home, her scholarship win and how it will impact her life and career!

SHATEC: What made you choose SHATEC?

Pou: I chose Singapore as my study destination, so I can explore the land, meet the people and learn food culturehere, which is a lot like New Zealand for its wide variety of cuisines. When we communicated with SHATEC, they opened their doors and were happy to welcome me into their community. It's a privilege to be here and learn all I can while at SHATEC.

SHATEC: How did you find out about the scholarship?

Pou: I have been training at Ignite Colleges, Auckland for a Certificate in Culinary Arts Level 3 when my cookery tutor, Ms Maigie Atienza, who is from the Philippines, nominated me for the scholarship. It was very overwhelming when I got the news. I stopped all that I was doing and my tears fell like rain. For the first time, I would represent the country under the scholarship title, step out of my comfort zone and leave New Zealand for international culinary training!

SHATEC: How do you feel leaving home to pursue further study in Singapore?

Pou: Pursuing this overseas opportunity is a recognition of my challenging culinary journey. I am excited to receive a Certificate from SHATEC and intend to enjoy it as much as possible when I’m here. This qualification will take my cheffing career to the next level and even help increase my earnings back home!

Pou putting on her pastry hat to prepare delectable cakes and pastries.

My kids are the biggest part of this journey. I’ve got three boys and one girl, aged 17, 12, 10, and 9. The baby of the lot, my little girl, says, “I want to cook like Mum!” She has started making her toast and wants to cut veggies next. The future paths for my kids motivate me to be a role model mum and give me the strength to carry on. If I can do it, surely my kids can do it too.

SHATEC: What are your first impressions of Singapore?

Pou: When I first arrived at Singapore Airport, I noticed it was really big, really neat, and the people were friendly. Everywhere I go around Singapore, I am impressed by the landscape and infrastructure; it’s all well-built.

I was told to visit Marina Bay Sands, a popular place with expensive food. I can’t wait to go out there and explore more of Singapore!

SHATEC: What are you most excited to experience in SHATEC?

Pou: If there's one thing I'm most looking forward to, it is learning the recipe to prepare Singapore Chicken Rice, so when I get home, I've got something stuck with me forever. I can cook it for my kids at home and my residents at the Lifecare facility. I'm also looking at learning the presentation of Singaporean or Asian food.

SHATEC: What are your experiences with Asian cuisines?

Pou: Back at Ignite Colleges in New Zealand, we learn the dishes from other countries. Their sweetness and rich flavours have drawn me further into the world of food.

We’ve got two Vietnamese students, one Cambodian, and one Chinese. Every month, we have a shared lunch where you prepare your traditional dish, representing your culture, homeland, and who you are. Using the ingredients at school, we have to create our dishes. I tasted many excellent recipes, especially the noodles, which are a staple in Asia.

SHATEC: To those with little knowledge about New Zealand or Samoa, what can you share about their food culture?

Pou: In Samoa, we have Palusami or Luau, made using fresh taro leaves and fresh coconut cream. In dishes from my food culture, we take fresh ingredients to make something new from scratch.

During the Waitangi celebration in New Zealand, we see a lot of Māori traditional food, like the Boil Up, served with fried bread. You have to boil up any pork or beef bones with veggies, seasonings, and small dumplings, in the form of a soup. I love to immerse myself in cooking it. The Māori has a food preparation method called Hāngī, where they slow-cook marinated meats in an earthen pit for four to five hours. I have learnt from the Pacific exploration of foods how to put the best flavours on the table.

In New Zealand, our common dishes are Eggs Benedict and Couscous with chicken.

SHATEC: What is one of your topmost personal or professional achievements?

Pou: I have been in the food industry for nearly 10 years. Moving up from being a kitchen hand to a chef has been challenging. My first job was at a simple, well-known restaurant in Wellington, where I picked up the basics, from washing dishes to food preparation. Like how to cut in various sizes, what knives to use, which plates to present different ingredients, and how to make sauces.

I later joined as a kitchen hand at Palms Lifecare facility, a rest home and safe space for retirees and seniors. I took in the encouraging words from my big boss that I was “more than enough” and stayed during the pandemic. Still hindered by my lack of qualifications, I had to find a way to fund my studies. So this scholarship came in timely for me to get the required qualifications.

For close to six years that I have been at the facility, together with the kitchen staff and the food nutritionists, we create and revise daily menus for the residents. It has been a blessing to serve, watch, and communicate with them in many different ways. I’m not always at the back of house. We are also trained to provide care and assistance to these seniors when needed.

If you have the passion for it, tell yourself you can achieve your goals. That is why I keep going!

-End of interview-

Pou shares her 6-week SHATEC training experiences with us!

“Throughout my learning journey in SHATEC, I made new friends, learnt new skills in pastry and baking, and understood how we can improve our standard and skillsets to prepare for careers in restaurants and hotels.

The school’s positive training environment does lend an atmosphere to bring to life lovely, tasty and unforgettable flavours in the pastry world.

I learnt how to bake vegan and gluten-free recipes–and the most amazing thing I am taking away is that you should bake with love!”