Photograph by Babiche Martens.

Born in Australia, Nic Watt spent his teenage years in New Zealand. After graduating as a chef, he moved to Japan in 1996 where his great love of the traditions of Japanese cuisine began. Before returning to New Zealand in 2012, Watt gained experience in highly successful restaurants such as London’s Park Hyatt Knightsbridge, Michelin starred Japanese restaurant Nobu and London’s Roka as well as others in Hong Kong and the USA. Between 2001 and 2004 he served as executive chef at Taupo’s Huka Lodge. In 2013 he opened MASU at Auckland’s Sky City, which raked in awards within a year of opening. In 2015 Watt opened Madame Hanoi, featuring modern French and Vietnamese fusion, before publishing the MASU cookbook in October that year.

“My food philosophy is very simple,” he said. “Every dish is standalone, packed with flavour, always focusing on enhancing the natural essence of the hero ingredient and allowing the food to garnish itself. Restaurant life is a passion for flavour and a dedication to detail.”

His favourite dish reflects this philosophy, containing only three ingredients – tuna belly, wild wasabi and infused soy. Ceviche and its many variants is the dish that will follow him wherever he goes, although Watt is also a fan of cooking over open charcoal. He’ll feature his crayfish spicy miso taco recipe at the Electrolux Chefs’ Secret tent at the upcoming Taste of Auckland festival, allowing members of the public a glimpse into the inner workings of his kitchen.

To stay educated about new trends, Watt eats out, reads and explores. Foraging is top of mind at the moment – “I recently discovered Loquats growing wild on Waiheke” – and Watts dishes are constantly evolving. He’s always on the lookout for new opportunities to showcase what he describes as his “passion for flavour and dedication to detail.”