Chef’s passion wins award
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.