Chef’s pas­sion wins award

Whangarei Report - - NEWS -

A wow fac­tor in ev­ery dish — that's what drives young Whanga¯ rei chef Dean Thomp­son and has seen him recog­nised with a na­tional award.

“If you taste it, and it's ‘good enough', it's not good enough, take it back and make it bet­ter,” Thomp­son said.

The 22-year-old is the head chef at Wahi at Oceans on the Tu­tukaka Coast.

He was named the Up and Com­ing Chef at Hos­pi­tal­ity New Zealand's Ris­ing Star Awards in Queen­stown re­cently.

The pas­sion­ate chef is driven to cre­ate “that ac­tual feel­ing you get when you eat some­thing good“for ev­ery cus­tomer who eats his food.

He said win­ning the award was “a wicked feel­ing“.

Thomp­son said he was “stoked“but sur­prised be­cause of the high cal­i­bre of other con­tes­tants. Part of process on the way to win­ning the award was a phone in­ter­view.

Af­ter he won, judges told him it was his pas­sion, en­ergy and drive that shone through over the phone that made him their top pick.

Thomp­son is orig­i­nally from Toko­roa. He left school at 17 and hav­ing al­ready made up his mind to be a chef, went to culi­nary school at Wa­iariki In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy, at the Toko­roa cam­pus.

While study­ing, he worked in a kitchen in Cam­bridge and then a steak­house in Hamil­ton, some­times up to 60 hours a week on top of his course.

He then moved to a cafe in Auck­land as he fin­ished study­ing. He reg­u­larly vis­ited Tu­tukaka on his days off and one day spoke to the head chef at Sch­nappa Rock.

That lead to a job at Sch­nappa Rock be­fore Nick Keene, who owns both res­tau­rants, asked him to be the head chef at Wahi at Oceans just over a year ago.

Thomp­son said he has learned so much, in par­tic­u­lar the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of be­ing the head chef. “When you're cook­ing your own food, when you're re­spon­si­ble for the flavours, it's a real drive.”

He said to cre­ate and main­tain a high stan­dard of food is re­ally re­ward­ing. But this is only the first step for Thomp­son, who wants to keep push­ing for­ward with his culi­nary ca­reer. “I know it's big but I don't know what it is yet. The only thing I'm cer­tain of in my ca­reer is that I want to work in a Miche­lin star restau­rant at some point.”

His next step will be work­ing over­seas and he is in the midst of learn­ing French, with plans to work in France next year.


Wahi at Oceans head chef Dean Thomp­son has been named Up and Com­ing Chef at the Hos­pi­tal­ity New Zealand Ris­ing Star Awards.

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