Meet the Chef: Josh Cronin, Pio Pio

Josh Cronin wanted to be a chef for as long as he can remember, and has never worked any other job.

“It is truly my life passion!”

The 26 year-old originally hails from Cork, Ireland. About six years ago, he moved to Australia for two years before jumping the ditch to Milford Sound. Having attended two different culinary colleges, it was when he was travelling that Cronin’s skills really started to grow. 

“I was very lucky to meet a passionate young chef that I could bounce ideas and enthusiasm off of, while in college. This really kick-started my journey and we are still friends to this day.”

Cronin and his chef friend set off to the remote outback of the Kimberley in Australia, to live and work with the indigenous Bardi Jawi community and work for a Master of the Art - a very well renowned and acclaimed Irish chef, creating something very unique and special. Working here, Cronin learned a tremendous amount about his trade, while getting to experience how some of the oldest indigenous cultures in the world eat, hunt, fish and much more. 

“This experience helped define my style of cooking and is what really fuels my culinary passion.”

His main culinary style is, in part, based on knowledge he acquired growing up, watching his grandmother cook every Sunday. Through his time in Australia, and now living in the beautiful wilderness of Milford Sound, Cronin has fine-tuned his culinary style, able to adapt to the surroundings he finds himself in. 

Cronin adores smoked and preserved foods, as is the standard way of cooking with the Bardi Jawi people of the Kimberley. He blends the smoking techniques, fermentation, and preserving ways he learned with his new knowledge of the phenomenal produce New Zealand has to offer. 

“Being in such stunning parts of the world, it is vital to use local produce and highlight the amazing area we are in. Sustainability is a big motivation of mine.”

At Pio Pio, the restaurant of Milford Sound Lodge, the team strives to create delicious seasonal dishes, while being as waste free as possible.

“As you can imagine, this is not an easy task!”

Pio Pio is aiming to offer an experience that will not be forgotten, with a focus on creativity, seasonality, sustainability and locality when curating the menu. With the help of some amazingly dedicated people, the team are making gains each day to make Milford Sound Lodge an industry leader in being eco-friendly. 

One of the biggest challenges facing the hospitality industry has been restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Difficulty in recruiting staff while being in a remote location has meant the team had to become even more resourceful but for Cronin, the amazing work ethic of his colleagues has gotten him through. The best part of working in hospitality is the ability to express himself in the fast paced nature of a kitchen.

“There is a general camaraderie amongst a team of like-minded, passionate chefs.”

In the near future, Cronin is predicting a large wave of tourists to New Zealand, increasing difficulties faced by staffing shortages. 

“Due to the border opening, this will be a very busy summer. It’s just a matter of getting the right people into the country, trained to an appropriate standard in time for the huge rush on NZ tourism.”

As a business, Milford Sound Lodge and Pio Pio are looking to maintain their very high standard, with ever-evolving seasonal menus and an emphasis on innovation and creativity. The lodge has a goal to increase the percentage of its produce sourced in Fiordland/Southland and has set a date to be 100 percent waste free by 2025. 

Cronin, personally, hopes to eventually open his own restaurant using everything he has learned so far.

“My ultimate dream would be to achieve my own Michelin stars.”

His advice to those hoping to pursue a career in the hospitality industry, work hard and be punctual.

“You will get very far on sheer work ethic and discipline alone. Be sure to watch and soak up everything along the way.”

Cronin urges any young chef wanting to see the world to get out there, since the decision massively changed his life for the better.

“I feel it is truly vital for everyone to experience the world, even a little of it. Just do it, it will be the best thing you ever do.”