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Festive duties .. Former Interislander ferries chief cook Catherine Wilson (centre), pictured with onboard supervisor Malissa Ngaki (left) and cabin attendant Roina Smith on the Awatere ferry, will this year lead cooking duties for the community Christmas dinner in Timaru. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

by Alexia Johnston

A chef who has spent her career catering for hundreds at a time has put her hand up to help with this year’s Timaru community Christmas dinner.
Catherine Wilson, a new resident in Pleasant Point, has offered to help with the event, taking on the role of chief cook, something for which she has plenty of experience.
Ms Wilson was chief cook on board the Interislander ferries for six years, a role she finished in August.
Since then, she has moved to Pleasant Point and has welcomed the opportunity of cooking this year’s community Christmas dinner after hearing of the committee’s need for a chief cook.
Putting her hand up for the role was a no-brainer, she said.
Christmas and public holiday you can imagine.”
After leaving her job on board the ferry, this Christmas was about to be the first she had not worked.
But then came the call from the community Christmas dinner committee requesting help from someone just like her.
Formerly of Cambridge in Waikato, Ms Wilson, who is also a painter and joiner by trade, moved to Pleasant Point following her desire to return to the South Island, where she was born and raised.
Her role on the ferries was one she “very much enjoyed” but as time went on she developed less of a desire to be away from home.
Leaving her job on board the ferry was a chance to “slow down and smell the flowers”, she said.
“[Then] this opportunity came up and it was like ‘yes – there is no doubt I would be keen to do it’,” she said, of the community Christmas dinner vacancy.
And, hundreds of hungry people was not enough to faze her.
“I’m used to cooking. Some days on the ship we would be cooking for 3000 to 4000 people, plus our crew.”
The job was one she enjoyed.
“I really enjoy working .. [with] the public. I like working with people. I like to encourage people to do the best that they can, whether they are qualified or not.
“But, what I look forward to is sharing .. Christmas with people. There’s no other reason other than to give something back to the community.”
And, this year, giving back would come in the form of preparing a festive array of meats, vegetables and desserts.
But Ms Wilson was not yet sure exactly what delicacies would be on offer.
“I’m just going to turn up on the day and I’m going to turn out the best meal I can with the people I’ve got.”