Le Cordon Bleu Logo

Meet Sheena Cruz

Le Cordon Bleu New Zealand
Alumna 2018

Sheena Cruz graduated from Le Cordon Bleu New Zealand in 2018 where she obtained Diplôme de Cuisine and Diplôme Avancé Culinaire in Cuisine with distinction. After graduating, she worked at Sofitel Wellington and various restaurants in Wellington before moving back to her home country, the Philippines, to start her own business; 
Sucrée Gourmet.

In this interview, Sheena shares her experiences studying at Le Cordon Bleu New Zealand and her culinary journey.

What made you choose the culinary arts?

I have always had a lifelong passion for cooking. As a child, I remember being so curious in the kitchen when my mother prepares food, and I would ask her a lot of questions about the dishes she was making. I also remember being so excited  watching different cooking shows on television. As I grew, so did my interest in cooking. I started making my own recipes and emulating different cuisines from around the world. I studied different flavour profiles, ingredients, herbs, and spices that are used in cookery.  As Julia Child puts it; “No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing”. My love for food, passion for creation, and desire to become a chef from a very young age, led me to pursue my studies in the culinary arts despite having a successful career in the medical field.

What was your experience like at Le Cordon Bleu New Zealand and what did you take away with you?

Before coming to New Zealand, I worked full time as a Nurse in Qatar. Despite the fact that I had been in the medical industry for almost a decade, a career change was necessary as my true passion has always been in the culinary field. So, I moved to New Zealand to join Le Cordon Bleu, Wellington to pursue my calling. What I loved about Le Cordon Bleu was the diversity, comradery, and the encouragement I received from both my fellow aspiring chefs, and mentors. It was such a wonderful experience studying with my classmates from different parts of the world, but share common passions and goals. Receiving the distinction award when I graduated in 2018 was truly an honor and one of the most memorable moments during my studies. It was such a privilege to be a student of Le Cordon Bleu and to be mentored by their world class lecturers.  The strict adherence to uncompromising standards, and stewardship of the lecturers in Le Cordon Bleu foster creativity and confidence in producing world class epicurean dishes.  Thanks to their efforts I am now equipped with the knowledge and skills that enable me to become successful in all areas of the culinary arts industry. My journey as a student in Le Cordon Bleu Wellington, was definitely one of the highlights of my stay in New Zealand!

How do you think Le Cordon Bleu help you reach your culinary goals?

Studying culinary arts in Le Cordon Bleu not only help me become a professional chef, but gave me a deeper appreciation of cuisine, as an art, as a part of culture, and as a way of achieving a healthy lifestyle. The standards of excellence in teaching from Le Cordon Bleu have been the foundation of my culinary skills and honed me to become the chef that I am today.

Tell us about your culinary journey so far?

I studied Diploma in Cuisine (Level 4) and Diploma in Advance cuisine (Level 5) in Le Cordon Bleu, Wellington. I did my internship at the Jardin Grill of Sofitel Wellington, and after I graduated it also became my first job as a part time commis chef, after working there briefly I moved to other restaurants within Wellington. During the heat of the pandemic, I decided to go back to my home country, Philippines, and open a business with my husband. I am currently the owner of Sucree Gourmet. It is an online business selling cakes and pastries. Starting a food business was a real challenge; fortunately the knowledge and skills acquired through studying in Le cordon Bleu gave me an edge on selling beautifully crafted desserts. Having a food business is just the start of the journey, I intend to venture into other areas of the culinary industry. In the future I hope to share my passion for gastronomy through teaching, and to someday publish a cookbook.

From left: Grilled River Prawn, Fleur de citrouille, lemon and dill beurre blanc; Chicken Roulade with spinach and mushroom duxelle, pomme purée, tomato confit, brocolli and apricot adobo jus; Mango Charlotte a la Parisienne.

What were your first impressions of Wellington, New Zealand?
New Zealand is becoming one of the most popular destinations for students who want to study abroad, because of its world class educational system, high standard of living, and also because it’s a very safe place to live in. People in Wellington and New Zealand in general are very friendly and approachable. It astounded me at first that people greet each other and asked how are they even if they are complete strangers something not very common in Asia.

Kiwi culture as a whole is very relaxed, which creates a comparatively low stress and low pressure society.

What is your one top tip for someone coming to study in Wellington?

 My tip for students coming to Wellington is to learn about New Zealand’s culture, language and people. And also learn New Zealand’s teaching, learning, and assessment styles. And most of all relish the journey not only the destination.

 From left: Sinful Brownie, Caramel Crémeux; Mango Caramel Cheesecake; Strawberry Cheesecake

*Photos courtesy of Sheena Cruz