From a young age, Adrian Chilton understood the intricacies of food. He cites his mum for his palette for unusual tastes, saying, “She always came up with these amazing out of the box dishes for us.” When Chilton was just 12-years-old, he won the National Cooking Competition in New Zealand for his school at the time, Northcross Intermediate. “From there I knew I had some skills, but my teachers really helped to push me and encouraged my cooking development.” Following high school, and through a passion of helping his mum in the kitchen, Chilton decided to go to AUT for three years and complete a diploma in Hospitality and Management as well as his required chef papers. “I feel as though I got a really well-rounded education in both Front of House & Back of House areas within a hospitality business. This definitely put me in good stead for career progression.” Currently, Chilton is the co-founder and executive chef of Burger Burger, who have stores in Ponsonby, Newmarket and Takapuna, with stores opening in Christchurch and Mount Maunganui soon.
Chilton has travelled a lot and works in New Zealand with years of overseas experience. Previously, some of Chilton’s roles included three years of working in the NZ TV & Film industry, catering to the likes of Celebrity Treasure Island, as well as being a crew chef for Survivor (USA) in Fiji, and cooking for 3 Ball Productions, the biggest reality TV company in the USA. Here, he cooked for Paris Hilton’s My New BFF and Two & A Half Men.
Within the next few weeks, Burger Burger will be opening stores in Christchurch and Mount Maunganui. “At the moment, every week looks different as we are gearing up to open two new restaurants in May. My sole focus is on training and developing our people so we can hit the ground running.” Burger Burger is about good and honest food. Chilton described the kitchen as “A fast-paced and high energy environment that uses traditional techniques learned in fine dining to create the best burgers in New Zealand.” On top of that, Chilton’s dishes over the years have become more and more refined. “I am super focussed on doing classics really, really well. It’s not always about evolving; it’s about doing it perfectly and being able to mix it up using different techniques.”
In order to keep up with trends, Chilton likes watching cooking shows as well as following other chefs on social media. “Plus, being in the industry a while means that I have made many friendships with fellow chefs (Nick Honeyman, Michael Meredith and Mike Slaven). We regularly get together and bounce ideas off each other. We all have different styles of cooking so we can keep it super fresh.”
Especially when it comes to burgers, health trends and dietary restrictions have the potential to instigate the need for change. “When we first launched Burger Burger, there was no such thing as 'vegan', and it wasn’t as widely known as it is today. Now we have dairy-free, gluten-free, and vegan options on our menu at all times. This includes our bunnuce (lettuce bun) option that we have had from day one.” Although the classics, like the beef, the lamb, and the chicken burgers may not conform to trends, Burger Burger is clearly leading the charge on having options.
“Moving forward,” Chilton said, “we are always making sure that we are evolving and adapting.” On top of creating some of the most mouth-watering burger flavours, Chilton loves his family and hot rods. “Family is hugely important to me, and I love getting my daughter to the beach so that she is a water baby, just like me. And of course, my beautiful wife, Michaela.”
Although Burger Burger’s range is diverse and impressive, Chilton admitted that he has a soft spot for the beef and cheese.