Elizabeth Na’asipa Toloke

Elizabeth Na’asipa Toloke

Master of Gastronomy student
Bachelor of Arts in Culinary Arts

The biggest misunderstanding about food is that food is only there to eat, says Elizabeth Na’asipa Toloke who came to AUT to study a Bachelor of Arts in Culinary Arts, followed by a Master of Gastronomy.

“Yes, it’s a fact that food does fuel our bodies but this degree has deepened my understanding of the active role that food can play in one's cultural identity, rituals and socio-culture, and the understanding of the inequality of food systems, impact of food security and decisions made about food, not just culturally but financially. The gastronomy degree is definitely filling a gap that is needed in today's society.”

For Elizabeth, her studies have been a journey of personal discovery. For her Master of Gastronomy dissertation she chose to focus on lu sipi, a traditional Tongan dish she grew up with and has many fond memories of.

"My dissertation and researching a dish from my own culture, using a method I’m familiar with, helped me discover and better understand my own cultural identity. In the future I hope to create and write more about Tongan food culture, and also find some way to help my Pacific community that is struggling in the food system.”

Supported to thrive
She has been impressed by the support she received throughout her studies, says Elizabeth who is expecting to graduate with her master’s degree later this year.

“I’ve enjoyed the amount of support and opportunities that AUT had to offer me as a Pacific Islander wanting to step into and achieve bigger goals in the academic field. Not only have I received amazing support from my lecturers during my bachelor’s degree and throughout my Master of Gastronomy, I was also supported and given work opportunities by AUT’s Office of Pacific Advancement. These pillars from AUT motivated me and helped me achieve the goals I wanted for myself.”

While Elizabeth had many highlights throughout her time at university, one person in particular made a strong impression on her; Associate Professor Tracy Berno from AUT’s School of Hospitality and Tourism.

“Associate Professor Tracy Berno is a non-Pacific academic expert on Pacific food and culture. She has inspired me to pursue more for my Pacific community as a daughter of the South Pacific. Although she is not Pacific herself, her passion, love and interests lie with our Pacific food and culture. This greatly encouraged me and inspired me to help fill the gap in academic literature written by Pacific people.”

Advice for other students
Elizabeth’s advice for other students is simple: ask for help if you need it.

“My advice for future students would be to understand that your lecturers are here to help. If you’re unsure of anything or have any questions, ask your questions during class time. If you’re shy then maybe talk to your lecturer after class or flick them an email. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

Always plan ahead for your assignments, she adds.

“At the beginning of every semester you’re given a paper study guide. With the study guide you’ll be well aware of your assignments and due dates. You should always plan out little goals to achieve to ensure that you get your assignment in on time. Take the time to read through the study guide and familiarise yourself with your assignments, and ask questions if you’re unsure of any requirements or criteria for your assignments.”

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