Chef MacLean Fraser.

Wellington chef, MacLean Fraser, has become the third ever New Zealander to be an approved World Association of Chef Societies’ judge. He is also the only current Kiwi approved out of some 1000 international chefs.

The Bolton Hotel Executive Chef decided to apply after noticing the dearth of New Zealand representation, compared with Australia which has more than ten approved chefs. ‘I felt that was an area we needed to improve on.’

Approved for the category of Culinary Arts, Fraser follows in the footsteps of previously World Chef approved judges Graham Hawkes and the late Neil MacInnes.

After a stellar start to his own career, working in top Wellington restaurants Bouquet Garni, Logan Brown and Hippopotamus, Fraser has filled executive chef roles at international five star hotels in Kuala Lumpur and the Maldives. He has headed up the Bolton’s Artisan Dining House for the past 3.5 years.

Fraser judged his first competition in 2012, at the Wellington Salon Culinaire. ‘Since then I have judged in Sri Lanka, Vanuatu and the Cook Islands. Two years ago I was a judge for New Zealand Chef of the Year and last year judged NZChefs’ Gourmet Pacific Challenge.’

Applying for international approval was a through process. ‘You are required to be a member and attend a judging seminar of the World Association of Chef Societies. Then you need to apply, including references from your own national association president, and from other internationally approved judges who can attest to your competence.’

Fraser is now hoping to travel abroad to judge and expand his experience and knowledge. ‘The opportunity to judge competitions in New Zealand as a WACS approved judge would also be great. As a member of the NZChefs’ high performance squad I also look forward to having opportunities to compete,’ he adds.

Cheffing competitions play an important role for the industry by developing the skills of chefs, he says. ‘Speaking for myself, as a young chef I found competitions invaluable, both as a creative outlet to try my own ideas, also to get invaluable feedback about what works and what doesn’t. This helps you improve and grow as a chef.’

And he believes Kiwi chefs punch above their weight on the international stage. ‘When you look at the huge amounts of money, time and resources other countries put into culinary competitions, I think that comparatively New Zealand always have and will continue to do very well.’

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