Italian pasta top of young chef's menu

By Roger Moroney

Young Hastings junior chef Daniel Gradwell has a simple philosophy when it comes to one day realising his dreams - one of which is to live and chef in Italy, as he has a penchant for pasta.

"You don't get anywhere if you don't try," he said.

So when it looked as if his hours working as a larder (junior) chef at Clearview Winery's restaurant would reduce as winter arrived he and head chef Peter Hallgarth got together.

Mr Hallgarth had taken him on a couple of years ago after he did a stint of work experience in the wake of graduating from the EIT with a Diploma of Proficiency in Culinary Arts.

The head chef recognised talent in his young charge, who is responsible for the creation of side dishes, cold entrees and desserts at Clearview, and wanted him to get every opportunity to further hone his skills and take on other challenges to keep his career simmering.

So they brainstormed and came up with a winter plan - based around Queenstown, where tourism business soars in the skifield months.

They worked on his CV and emailed it to six restaurants in the southern resort. The head chef at one, Josh Emet, knew Mr Hallgarth and figured if he thought this kid was cutting it then he'd give him a shot in the heat of the busy kitchen at Rata restaurant.

Three weeks ago, Mr Gradwell went to Queenstown to meet Mr Emet (a Michelin-star chef who has worked with Gordon Ramsay) and had a few days' trial. "I was doing general preparation stuff - from preparing 10kg of john dory to cutting up cabbages," he said.

The kitchen was sharp and modern and "massive" but he quickly took it all aboard and slotted in with the eight cheffing staff there. "He offered me the job after the trial, so I must have done alright," he said.

New challenges in a new landscape was what he was looking for to expand his career.

"If you want to progress in anything in life, then you have to get your head down and just work hard."

The 20-year-old said that as he grew up he saw his two elder brothers display the same ethic - both had done well in their careers.

He will head south in a couple of weeks to take up the job, and at the end of the season probably will return to the Bay, although his sights are firmly set on tasting the heat in overseas kitchens.

Mr Hallgarth said he was delighted Mr Gradwell had picked up a place at one of the country's leading restaurants, and was impressed with his "get stuck in" attitude.

"It's important that young chefs don't get into a rut and get stale," Mr Hallgarth said.

"They need to have different experiences working for a variety of chefs and it's important to keep pushing yourself ."

Another young Clearview chef, Dylan Olsen, had also impressed Mr Hallgarth and accepted an apprenticeship with the winery restaurant.

He began as a kitchen hand but after displaying a knack for food preparation was "stepped up" by Mr Hallgarth.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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