Originally from the Netherlands, Bert van de Steeg has spent the last 18 years carving a name for himself in New Zealand’s culinary scene.
Van de Steeg decided he wanted to become a chef at a young age, and has fond memories of helping his mother in the kitchen. After picking up a weekend job at a restaurant while in high school, van de Steeg’s passion for cooking developed further.
Prior to moving to New Zealand in 2004, van de Steeg trained in mostly fine dining restaurants. Following his move across the globe, he diversified and took on head chef roles at restaurants across the country. After leaving his role as Executive Chef at Stoneridge in Queenstown in 2018, van de Steeg took on the Head Chef role at Malo Restaurant. In 2019, he was given the opportunity to buy the business.
Following Covid-19, van de Steeg introduced Malo at Home, a private chef service where customers can enjoy a taste of Malo from the comfort of their own home.
The chef describes his cooking style as modern yet classic, with a focus on rustic flavours using quality ingredients. The menu at Malo is influenced by his Dutch heritage and highlights local produce and ingredients.
In a similar manner to chefs across the country, van de Steeg is struggling with staffing issues. Located in a small Hawkes Bay village, Malo Restaurant doesn’t have the same size talent pool to pull from as inner-city kitchens do.
Training the next generation of chefs is something van de Steeg is passionate about, though he worries the profession isn’t attracting enough new talent to keep the industry thriving.
“Training is key to our industry and talking to training centres like EIT we just hear that there are not enough students coming through to become the next generation of great chefs.”
His advice for upcoming chefs, or people interested in the industry was to work for quality restaurants and chefs who would provide opportunities to learn and grow. Though fine dining kitchens have high standards, heavy workloads and require long hours, young chefs will leave with broad knowledge of food, flavours and details that will set them up for successful careers.
After reflecting on his career that has spanned across two opposite ends of the globe, and included working with incredible chefs from all walks of life, van de Steeg had one final piece of advice.
“Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, but learn from them instead, and always keep asking questions.”