The winner of the 2020 Nestlé Golden Chefs Hat Award, New Zealander Sam Heaven, has always had his eye on what’s next and making the most of opportunities that come his way.

Hospitality Business caught up with him to discuss his activities since the competition, and what he sees trending in the industry at the moment.

With a 55-year legacy which involves pitting top young chefs from around the country against one another in a live cook off, the Nestlé Golden Chefs Hat Award is one of Australia’s top culinary competitions.

In 2020, the event expanded to take in chefs from New Zealand. This change was fortuitous for Sam Heaven who was ultimately awarded the prestigious top spot in the competition from a pool of the best and brightest young culinary talent New Zealand and Australia have to offer.

Sam says the response from friends and family to his win was overwhelming and gave him a great sense of pride in what he achieved.  

“Everyone was overjoyed with the result. My girlfriend who supported and stood by me throughout the gruelling training process was particularly delighted that all of my hard work had finally paid off.”  

Since the conclusion of the culinary competition, Sam has found himself immersed in his position at the newly opened five star Park Hyatt Hotel at Auckland’s Viaduct, where he spends his days working on new and exciting culinary dishes for the menu. 

Sam says he is also incredibly passionate about eventually pursuing a career overseas, where he hopes to work with the industry’s most talented and experienced chefs. 

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic posing a significant dilemma to the culinary industry, Sam believes chefs and restaurants have been quick to adapt to the challenge.

“Whether it’s implementing a delivery service, utilising more local produce or simplifying the menu, the response from the industry as a whole has been incredible. Chefs and restaurants have adapted and will continue to bounce back stronger than ever in the future.”

Back in the kitchen, Sam says he’s excited about the autumn and winter months ahead.  With the weather starting to become cooler at this time of the year, chefs are turning their attention to hearty, warm dishes that make the most of available produce

“The use of vegetables such as sunchoke and celery will help to add depth to those dishes, while slow cooked braised meats and delicious gamey meats will also come to the fore.” Sam says. 

“There’s nothing better than experimenting with and tweaking a menu. My position includes helping with menu development and this has given me an amazing level of freedom to expand my culinary repertoire and cook a diverse range of dishes.”

Sam believes there will be an emphasis on where produce is sourced, with many customers increasingly interested in the farm to table process. Going forward Sam says he is motivated to keep expanding his horizons and growing his culinary skills. Source: Nestlé Talking Taste.

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