Meet the Chef: Max Yangkongkaew, Kiss Kiss

“Working in hospitality can be hard, and we all have bad days, but often it’s really fun. I love shifts where there’s some light-hearted banter, a bit of mischief and everyone works together as a team. There’s nowhere I’d rather be,” expressed Head Chef at Kiss Kiss, Max Yangkongkaew.

Max began his hospitality journey in Australia. While studying at university, he worked part-time as a kitchen hand, before receiving the chance to cook when the restaurant was short-staffed. This gave Max the inspiration and confidence to study cooking and pursue a career as a chef.


Nestled in a side street off Dominion road in Auckland, Kiss Kiss offers dishes inspired by the street food culture of Thailand – perfect for Max who specialises in Asian cuisine that incorporates European cooking methods. One of his latest innovations is braising pork hack using secret spice and liquid caramel, before serving the dish with cucumber vinegar relish. 

The pandemic has taken a big toll on hospitality with many restaurants suffering from the ongoing effects of supply, staff shortages, and inflation. While many restaurants have responded by offering takeaway options and limited indoor dining, Kiss Kiss has managed these difficulties by pivoting to an online ordering platform. 

“I am incredibly thankful for my team who has worked so hard to cover staff shortages during this challenging time,” Max noted.


Nuanced expertise and speciality offerings rather than broad-strokes approach is what the future holds for Kiwi hospitality, according to Max. Restaurants that specialise in unusual cuisines or a narrow range of dishes will have an advantage in attracting diners, he said. 

“Especially if there is a story behind the menu.”

For Max, hospitality rewards people who work hard and show initiative. The industry is large, with many different avenues and career opportunities for someone willing to go the hard yards.

Looking forward, Max hopes that he can continue his learning journey and take his career to the next level.