A foodie right from the start, Stuart Marsden is the head chef at the popular uptown eatery, East located in the Auckland C.B.D.
Inspired by Asian cuisine from Japan to Sri Lanka, East has a dedicated menu to providing plant-based meals with a modern dining and flavour twist.
Marsden grew up knowing that he wanted to work in the food industry, and his biggest culinary inspiration was his Mum.
“I can remember being amazed at how she would get flavour into different things whether it was sweet or savoury,” explained Marsden. “I knew this was something I wanted to pursue so when I was 12, I did a short cooking course and took along my own knife and a little notebook. From there it was weekend work in a pastry shop before moving into kitchens, and I’ve never looked back .”
Having had the travel bug, Marsden has picked up recipes and techniques from all over the world, but with a specific focus on the bold spices and flavours from Asia.
“I was lucky enough to travel to places like Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia with my parents and just couldn’t believe how many different flavours were packed into every single meal I ate.”
With East being completely meat-free, there is an opportunity to develop new dishes without the foundation of the standard protein. This innovative approach has given Marsden a creative challenge, with vegetables taking centre stage in many of their meals.
Another challenge that Marsden has faced is in the labour market. The industry as a whole has missed out on hospitality talent from overseas, as well as the common misconception that the industry cannot provide a long-term career.
“Look at me, my job has taken me all over the world. I’m lucky to work with a motivated and talented team who are passionate about their jobs and the food we create.”
Marsden said for those starting in hospitality to not be afraid of starting from the bottom, as everyone has to start somewhere.
“Some of the world's most famous chefs started as kitchen hands or waiting tables. This experience is invaluable later in your career as it provides you with perspective and an understanding of how the entire restaurant ecosystem works together as one. Start with the basics and work your way up.”
While his mind is focused on continuing the success of East, Marsden said that he still plans to grow as a chef.
“Once my young girls have grown up, my wife and I will head overseas and start up a bed and breakfast. Maybe in Corsica, in France, if I had to pick a favourite place to travel that would definitely be up there.”