Like all good stories, Otago Polytechnic academic Adrian Woodhouse’s graduation tale is strewn with many twists.

Adrian will make history on Friday 23 July when he becomes the first person to graduate with a Doctorate of Professional Practice from Otago Polytechnic.

Adrian had a surprise planned for the three academic supervisors who have helped steer him on his Doctoral path: this afternoon (Thursday 22 July) as part of a Māori pre-graduation ceremony at Otago Polytechnic’s Dunedin campus, he presented each with a carving crafted from a whale bone he has had for the past three decades.

Academic Leader of the Bachelor of Culinary Arts programme within Otago Polytechnic’s Food Design Institute, Adrian describes his Doctorate as “coming full circle” at Otago Polytechnic.

He is referring to the fact he began studying at Otago Polytechnic as a 14-year-old schoolboy, when he took up night classes in bone carving, a period of study that spanned three years.

Hence his ability to carve a fitting gesture to those who have overseen his academic work in recent years.

“When I was a teenager, I discovered a whale rib at Whareakeake. I took it to my tutor at the time and we then took it to Ōtākou Marae, where it was blessed and cut into three portions. I was given one portion. And for the past 32 years, I have kept it.

“I hadn’t picked up my tools in all those years. But I was inspired to create carvings for these people who have been such powerful forces in my academic journey.”

Yet, the springer of surprises in turn received one this afternoon: his wife (Amanda Jane) and daughter (Eva) presented Adrian with a sculpture created by Chris Charteris, who first taught him all those years ago.

“When Eva and I were trying to think of an appropriate taonga we decided that it would be cool to get something from Chris Charteris before we even knew of Adrian’s whalebone plans,” Amanda Jane explains.

“I tracked down Chris, the Otago Polytechnic tutor who taught Adrian to bone-carve when he was 14. Chris remembered Adrian and was keen to be a part of this.”

Adrian, who has taught culinary arts at Otago Polytechnic for the past 19 years, is recognised as a leader of his profession – he is the only individual to have received two New Zealand National Tertiary Teaching Awards.

On leaving school at 16, he enrolled at Otago Polytechnic, doing cookery training. He worked in kitchens for free to build up his requisite experience/hours. The dedication paid off: “I had a long career working in restaurants for almost three decades,” he reflects.

As an award-winning chef in the 1990s and early 2000s, he quickly became a leader in some of New Zealand’s top restaurants.

For the last decade he has led the development of Bachelor of Culinary Arts programme, a highly innovative, design-led programme recognised as being world-leading in its approach.

“I’ve gone from studying as a kid to trades training, to doing a Bachelors, a Masters, and now a Doctorate. I’ve clocked the game, so to speak – all at Otago Polytechnic, where I still teach.”

Doctorate utilises traditional Māori storytelling approach

Adrian Woodhouse’s weaving of multi-threaded stories, of whale bone, of carving, and of personal and professional cycles, befits not only his academic journey, but also reflects the medium and style of his Doctorate – titled “Torn Identītīes: A Kāi Tahu Pūrākau of Whiteness”. (Eds note: Identītīes is correct.)

Pūrākau is a traditional Māori storytelling approach that draws on metaphor. Adrian used this, along with kaupapa Māori theory, to develop a methodology by which he could frame his work.

“I needed to embrace a Māori storytelling mode that, nevertheless, has structures within it. And I suspect it is this aspect of my work that will have the greatest academic impact. It offers new ways of thinking through reflective storytelling.”

A descendant of an early mixed-race marriage between a Kāi Tahu wahine and a European whaler, Adrian’s work looks back through the generations since that marriage, uncovering almost 200 years of cultural assimilation that have left him questioning the validity and legitimacy of his Kāi Tahu identity.

“In summary, my Doctorate is an insider’s perspective from a self-labelled ‘white guy’ who is reclaiming his Kāi Tahu identity while exploring what this means for his personal and professional life.”

Adrian’s Doctoral work is situated within a wider Kāi Tahu whānui narrative of cultural dislocation. As such, he hopes it will provide Kāi Tahu whānui with a tool to enable cultural reconnection, revitalisation and empowerment, especially for those who do not see themselves as meaningfully connected with their indigenous selves.

“I have used Whiteness Theory to illuminate why I, and some other Kāi Tahu, have felt dislocated from that culture.

“Although I had a passion for cooking from early age, one that led me to train in the classical French curriculum and to go on to work as a chef in the field of haute cuisine/fine dining, my Doctorate  actually critiques the institutions of Haute Cuisine and culinary education underpinned by it.

“For example, as soon as you step into a traditional culinary school, you immediately learn French phases and Francophile ideologies, values and beliefs – things such as ‘mise en place’ and ‘julienne’ – and as you progress, the food gets more technical, more elaborate.

“There is this Euro-centric hierarchy to food. If it is highly manipulated and theatrical, it is regarded as more cultured. These methodologies and approaches perpetuate ‘whiteness’ and further distance indigenous chefs and learners from their cultural identity.”

Footnote: Otago Polytechnic introduced the Doctorate of Professional Practice programme in August 2017. Although Adrian Woodhouse is the first to graduate from the programme, former CEO Phil Ker was conferred an Honorary Doctorate of Professional Practice in March 2020.

Adrian Woodhouse’s thesis can be found here

Published on 22 Jul 2021

Orderdate: 22 Jul 2021
Expiry: 22 Jul 2023