NMIT student chef Barry Blue with the army engineers he has been cooking for in Nelson.

Barry Blue goes back to school

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Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT) student Barry Blue has left behind an accountancy career to find his niche as a chef – and he’s also found a rewarding connection with the New Zealand Army after volunteering to cook for soldiers on deployment in Nelson.

The 53 year-old from Richmond, in his second and final year of the Diploma of Culinary Arts at NMIT, was quick to put up his hand to feed a contingent of Royal New Zealand Army engineers who have been in Nelson to reconstruct a memorial to first world war soldiers at the Marsden Valley cemetery.

“My father had been in the engineer’s regiment as a mechanic in the second world war and it was a chance to give something back to the engineers,” Barry says.

Burnham and Linton military camp-based engineers have been dining at NMIT’s Rata restaurant while spending a month rebuilding the memorial site that was unveiled at the weekend.

“Everyone tells me I’m great cooking for the engineers, but I reckon I’m the one who’s getting the most out of it because I’m getting another chance in the kitchen,” Barry says. “I get to make things that I want – it’s priceless real-time experience.”

Cooking school is not Barry’s first time in tertiary study after attending NMIT 20 or so years ago as an accountancy student.

“My whole life has been as a chartered accountant but I’d always wanted to run a pub.”

Friends advised him to learn to cook first and Barry took the plunge.

“I’ve absolutely loved it and it’s really changed my attitude towards cooking. I came here to learn to cook a steak and chips but I’ve learned far more than that – I’m still shocked and amazed what I can now create on a plate.”

While the soldiers have returned to their bases, Barry and his fellow students have another month or two before they complete their diploma.

“Phillip Reay might have called me a mature student. Actually, I’m just an old student,” Barry says.

But he has proved that you are never too old to learn, or to change career direction. Barry says his next move will be to buy a pub or restaurant and begin a new stage in life.