Kiwi chef climbs the global culinary ranks

By Abby Gillies, Teuila Fuatai of APNZ

Christchurch born chef Michael Shand. Photo / supplied
Christchurch born chef Michael Shand. Photo / supplied

A Kiwi chef climbing the international culinary ranks can list music moguls Beyonce and Jay-Z among his star clientele.

Cooking for the celebrity husband and wife team has become part of the job for Christchurch-born Michael Shand - a rising star himself.

Shand works as an on-tour personal chef to the Grammy-award-winning singers.

When he's not travelling, he can be found in the kitchen at New York's 40/40 Club where he has been head chef for two years.

It is an opulent sports bar and restaurant owned by sports fan Jay-Z and his business partner.

YouTube video viewers are taken inside the kitchen to watch Shand preparing chicken empanadas, chicken and catfish tenders and 'sliders' - mini hamburgers.

The venue is named after a baseball feat achieved by only four players - hitting 40 home runs and stealing 40 bases in one season.

"I love sports and wanted to create an environment that is conducive to match my lifestyle, while watching the games at the same time," says Jay-Z on the club's website.

Shand has created the American style menu to his famous employer's tastes, and it includes traditional buffalo wings, sandwiches, salads, and for dessert, banoffee pie and pineapple upside down cake.

Catering to the elite, the club includes an illuminated bar, champagne tower, marble arena-style seating, chandeliers and many large flat-screen televisions.

In VIP lounges, guests can watch their favourite sports as well as check out sports memorabilia, such as the autographed gloves from the 1974 Ali vs Frazier fight and wrestling championship belt of Kurt Angle.

One of Shand's previous bosses, Wellington restaurant owner and chef Martin Bosley said Shand worked as a sous chef at his restaurant before leaving for America.

"Mike still keeps in touch with us, and it doesn't surprise me at all that he is working for Beyonce and Jay-Z. He is a very talented chef and is great under pressure."

Bosley, who counts Shand as one of his good friends said his old sous chef last turned up at his Wellington restaurant a few years ago with his new wife, who is coincidentally Beyonce's pianist.

"It was great. He turned up looking more like a rock star in his leather jacket than a chef, but it was still the same old Mike."

In addition to his commitments to the superstar couple, Bosley said Shand is also studying towards a business degree.

New Zealand MasterChef judge Simon Gault said working for Beyonce and Jay-Z was a fantastic opportunity for Shand.

"He will travel around the world and learn how to cook different types of cuisine."

Gault, who has also worked for various stars including American Idol founder Simon Fuller and Oracle boss Larry Ellison, said whilst being a personal chef for celebrities was hard work, "it is also really rewarding".

The MasterChef judge added that Shand would be likely to have some unique cooking opportunities working for the two superstars, as there "probably wouldn't be too many budget expectations on him".

Shand began his culinary training as an apprentice in former Auckland restaurant MJ's, run at the time by acclaimed Welsh chef Michael James, according to his biography on the club website.

While there, he quickly climbed the ranks of the fine dining restaurant as well as completing a culinary qualification at Auckland University before working in a number of the country's top-ranking restaurants.

He then headed to Europe to further sharpen his culinary skills and started working on-tour as one of several chefs catering to Beyonce's entourage.

He later landed the job as personal chef to Beyonce and Jay-Z during world their tours and continues to work around the world with the couple, who became parents earlier this year.

- APNZ

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