When did you realise you wanted to work in hospitality?
I was 14 when I decided to be a chef, I wanted to work with my hands and not in an office. My grandfather was my food hero and made the most incredible smoked fish, smoked fish roe, battered green lip mussels and awful home brew. He was always at the docks talking to the fishermen, buying seafood directly from the boats. I spent a lot of time with him, fishing off the wharf and talking about what we were going to eat next!
Where and how did you get your start?
At 16 I applied to cooking school and was denied because I had no experience, so I finished my last year of secondary school and I applied to Saints Waterfront Brasserie, in St Heliers Auckland, for a part time job. My first paid job was Kitchen Porter on busy Saturday and Sunday brunch’s and I worked for free 1 night a week training. Eventually I learnt enough to start being paid to cook. I then left school and went to catering school full time for 2 years and kept up my part time job. I had a female head chef who was key to me surviving the first year in the kitchen and was the last time I would work under a female in the industry for the rest of my career to date.
Sum up your current work life in one sentence?
Right now I have a brilliant team front and back and if they are happy, I am happy!
Who has been really influential on your career and why?
David Thompson taught me to really taste food and develop my palate and for that I am eternally grateful. He opened the door to Thai food and culture and the importance of ingredients and balance. Jamie Younger for pushing me to open a restaurant when I thought it wasn’t possible with a 3 year old.
What’s your one piece of advice to someone starting out?
Have a game plan, work towards your own goals and work for the best chefs in an environment that suits you as a person.
Where did you last have a great meal?
A. Wong was standout
Where is the most exciting city for hospitality (after London)?
I don’t get out of SE15 much!
Who would you identify as a rising star?
Shuli Wimer – her style is influenced by the many different cultures she grew up with back home, her time living and working in Tel Aviv and the five happy years she’s spent cooking at the River Café, but mainly she just loves to feed people.