Hospitality Business Magazine


Marc Soper - NZ Chef of the YearWairarapa chef takes top honours in a close battle for New Zealand Chef of the Year

Over the last four days, the rising stars of New Zealand’s culinary and hospitality industry have cooked their hearts out at the ‘NZChefs National Salon’, the industry’s annual championship event.

At the awards ceremony in Auckland’s Logan Campbell Centre last night, Chef Marc Soper from Wharekauhau Lodge in the Wairarapa took out the New Zealand Chef of the Year title.

The judges noted that Marc was extremely confident in the kitchen and showed a good range of technical skills. His dishes had great taste, a good balance of flavours and they were immaculately presented.

It was an extremely close battle for the national title between Chef Soper and first runner up Eric Lim from Chillingworth Road Restaurant who also scored gold in the triathlon cooking competition.

Blake Haines, also from Chillingworth Road, won Commis Chef of the Year with his two dishes; A main consisting of a duo of Akaroa Salmon pan seared, nori wrapped Puy Lentils, butternut pumpkin puree, roasted baby carrot and turnip, verjuice emulsion and black sesame texture.

For dessert, Blake created a beautiful semi frozen sprayed strawberry mousse, pistachio, toasted meringue, strawberry textures, coconut gel, and sour lime sorbet.

This year’s international feature competition was the Gourmet Pacific Challenge where teams of two, a chef and commis chef, from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Guam battled for the Pacific Rim title.

The teams had to prepare and present a three course fine dining lunch for six people. At the end of the three hour event, Michael Norton and Ebhan Darvill from Tasmania, Australia emerged victorious.

The highest scores of the National Championships went to two Secondary School students; Sam Heaven from St John’s College, Hastings, scored gold with 97/100 for his skull and rose celebration cake, while Michelle Barnfather from Kerikeri High School also scored 97/100 in the restaurant service competitions for her innovative table setting.

Max Donaldson, aged eleven, from Kerikeri was the youngest winner receiving the national ‘Kiwi Kids Can Cook’ title and trophy.

During the last four days of culinary and hospitality competitions, 160 kilograms of margarine was turned into sculptures, a tonne of NZ beef, lamb, chicken, pork, venison and salmon was cooked and presented to judges, while 500 kilograms of chocolate was baked, drizzled, poured and moulded in live dessert competitions. At the end of it all, over 2000 plates were washed!



Chef of the Year                                                        Marc Soper, Wharekauhau Lodge, Wairarapa

Commis Chef of the Year                                                      Blake Haines, Chillingworth Road, Christchurch

Pastry Chef of the Year                                                           Nathan Shuangshen Liu, Skyline Rotorua

Bartender of the Year                                                             Varun Kumar, Sudima Hotel, Rotorua

Barista of the Year                                                                    Johnny Leung, Brew Group, Auckland

Service Professional of the Year                                       Shane Premaj, Hilton Hotel, Auckland

Service Professional of the Year   – Training               Sonny Taylor, Defence Catering School

Cocktail Champion of the Year                                         Suchit Chhetri, Rendezvous Grand Hotel, Auckland

Service IQ Apprentice of the Year                                    Aaron Kingsford, The Falls Retreat, Waihi

Training Establishment of the Year                                Cornell Education Group

Secondary School Excellence Award                            Manurewa High School