Five young chefs have participated in the inaugural Ora King Next Generation mentoring programme over the past two months; this is a new programme designed to help the next generation of promising chefs develop the necessary know-how to excel in the industry. The chefs were paired with five well-known and established chefs, and the programme was split into two stages. Including one week at the allocated mentor’s restaurant and a one day workshop in Christchurch consisting of short modules, with topics covered by mentors and industry experts such as leadership, life balance, provenance, social media, trends and dish inspiration.
One of the young chefs chosen for the programme was Harrison McIntyre, apprentice chef at SkyCity conventions, kitchens and catering, who was mentored by Simon Green from Halo at Trinity Wharf in Tauranga.
Although growing up in West Auckland, McIntyre spent a lot of weekends and holidays at Martins Bay, a coastal town near Kawau Island, where his love of seafood began.
“I had the opportunity to work at Auckland Seafood School through a contact at college,” said McIntyre. “There I met resident chef Mark Dronjak, who took me on, developed my interest in the industry and continued to involve me in the spice business he was developing and supported me in my application for a chef apprenticeship at SkyCity.”
Pastry chef Clement Mathon from True South Dining Room at The Rees Hotel in Queenstown also took part in the programme and was mentored by Andrew Brown from Dragons Den Christchurch.
Mathon grew up in the French Alps and only a few years ago moved to Auckland after working in Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe.
“I spent a lot of time with my two grandmothers in the kitchen when I was young who taught me a lot,” said Mathon. “The first dish I ever made is one my grandmother taught me, a rabbit civet.”
His greatest influence to date was that of Regis Marcon, a self-taught chef that started from a café at a petrol station opened by his grandmother and today has one of the most famous three-starred restaurants in France and has an incredible passion for mushroom and local products.
“This programme has been an excellent experience, with a definite highlight being to serve my two dishes in Andrew Brown’s restaurant and have the interaction with guests about their perception of the dishes. What makes it even better is that now my dessert is on the menu at The Rees in Queenstown.”
Top Chef Darren Johnson from MASU in Auckland mentored junior sous chef Maxime Gnojczak from Restaurant One80 at the Copthorne Hotel. Born in Marseille, Gnojczak learnt a lot in the kitchen from his grandparents, all of whom are different nationalities including French, Polish, Italian and German.
Despite the French being known for their use of butter, Gnojczak much prefers the use of olive oil and has come in handy for his newfound love of the Kiwi BBQ technique.
“My fiancée and I decided to travel the world, and New Zealand was the first stop – that was three years ago so I guess we have decided to stay a little longer,” said Gnojczak. “Highlights from my experiences in New Zealand so far have been the quality of the ingredients available to chefs and the behaviour of people regarding learning new techniques and getting the best out of a recipe.”
Chetan Pangham from the One80 Restaurant in Wellington mentored junior chef de partie Daryl Remaneses who has been working at Baretta in Christchurch. Remaneses moved to New Zealand from the Philippines when he was 10 and after high school enrolled in an electrical engineering course but halfway through the year realised that a career in the hospitality industry would better suit his passion for cooking.
“The highlight of my week in Wellington would have to be visiting different restaurants and trying out new foods,” said Remaneses. “I have learnt different styles of French and Indian cooking with my mentor Chetan Pangam, and he also taught me some molecular gastronomy which I have thoroughly enjoyed.”
An opportunity to gain new skills and to learn from the best was one of the main reasons behind commis chef Joelle Snook joining the programme. Kevin Hopgood from Hopgood’s in Nelson mentored Snook through the programme, and a highlight was discovering all the fresh produce readily available and seeing where it came from gave her a new appreciation for the product. “The tour of Ora King Salmon was a big eye opener,” said Snook. “I didn’t realise how much science, time and work goes into getting a piece of salmon onto the customer’s plate, and it was a revelation for me.”
“Working with Kevin at Hopgood’s Restaurant was a fantastic experience, watching them on service and the consistently good food that both Aaron and Kevin and the team delivered was very inspiring.”