Becoming a chef was never the original plan for Jonathan Williams who studied design before realising he had a passion for food. Williams threw himself headfirst into the hospitality industry and developed his skills in the kitchens of Michelin-star restaurants.
After arriving in New Zealand, Williams worked alongside acclaimed chef Josh Emett at the iconic Queenstown restaurant, Rātā, which he believes has shaped his outlook on the industry and his priorities as a chef.
“Working under Josh’s guidance and mentorship has not only changed who I am as a chef today, but my whole thought process in remaining humble as a person and how important it is to have healthy self-esteem.”
As the Head Chef at Nest Kitchen & Bar at Kamana Lakehouse Hotel, Williams focuses on contemporary dining, which he described as “a modern take on classic dishes using seasonal and fresh local produce to focus on a fresh and ever-changing menu.”
Williams’ cooking philosophy is to take simple ingredients and turn them into something special. His culinary style is refined and classic, where every ingredient has a reason to be on the plate.
“The key for me when creating dishes is to be memorable and unique, using NZ ingredients in a different way.”
Williams enjoys the creative aspect of being a chef, testing the boundaries and pushing culinary limits to create unforgettable dishes. Recent standout dishes that have been featured on the Nest Kitchen & Bar tasting menu include green-lipped mussel ice cream and crayfish muffins.
Nest Kitchen & Bar has found itself, like many hospitality businesses, struggling with staff shortages. Being located in a tourist town means much of the workforce is seasonal, and finding long-term staff has proven difficult. Williams is confident in the team he has built and is excited about what the future holds for them.
Another challenge Williams faces as a Head Chef is making sure both he and his team manage a work-life balance that promotes a healthy mindset.
“In order for a kitchen to continually perform under these long hours with a lot of pressure, a focus needs to be made on a healthy work-life balance. We are all so aware of this important issue and how I maintain this with my team is just as important”
Williams’ advice to upcoming chefs is to embrace every opportunity to learn and make the most of the experience.
“The hospitality industry is vast and diverse, so absorb as much as you can about different roles, from front-of-house to back-of-house operations. Do not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone; that's where growth happens.”