Zorawar Singh Ahluwalia, aka Chef Z, has 20 years of experience heading kitchens around the world, including at sea on a luxury liner, but has been struggling to land a job in New Zealand.
He lost his teaching position at an Auckland culinary school for international students in May due to Covid restructuring.
Since then, he has sent out more than 100 applications, and got just as many rejections.
"Jokingly I tell my wife I should change my name," he said with a sad laugh.
"The fact is people form a preconceived notion of you even before they meet you, and judge you based on their past experiences with people from that ethnic background. Not for who you are."
Indonesia-born graphic designer Anastasia has felt both frustration and desperation since she started actively applying for jobs in January.
"I'm told most companies are looking for Kiwi experience, so I need to do something to get that and up my skills," she added.
Anastasia and Chef Z are part of a legion of jobseekers caught in the turbulence of a New Zealand job market reeling from the impact of a prolonged global health crisis.
A new report by the Ministry of Social Development found that Covid-19 saw an unprecedented increase in the number of people on welfare benefits in April, the month New Zealand declared a nationwide lockdown.
The same report forecast beneficiaries to peak at 16.2 per cent of the working population in January 2021, higher than the previous shocks of the Global Financial Crisis at 12.4 per cent, and the Asian Crisis at 15.8 per cent - if realised.
Recent job market data showed women were disproportionately affected by Covid-19 job losses, but so far throw up no significant findings on how different ethnic groups fared in recession.
At least one expert points to the overall lack of research and data when it comes to ethnicity and employment.
"We know from employment statistics and some small studies that people of different ethnicities are treated differently in the labour market, in terms of their success in getting jobs, the types of jobs they have and their income," says Professor Francis Collins, director at the National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis.
"But not enough to understand how and why this happens, and what can be done to increase equity and reduce discrimination."
It was hard for migrants to find work even before Covid, says Garry Gupta of the Migrant Careers Support Trust, a non-profit that offers career advice, workshops and networking events to ethnic and migrant jobseekers.
There is no overt racism here, he says, pointing to "a certain mindset" of businesses to hire their own kind, and "perhaps a lack of confidence that migrants can deliver".
"I used to get very nice rejection letters," Gupta says of his own experience in the marketing industry, which prompted him to start the trust to help others like him.
"But I got so many they made me think, if I'm so good why don't you give me a chance?"
Since the trust started in June 2019, it has organised workshops that focus on soft skills like familiarity with Kiwi corporate culture, workplace dynamics, and even English language communication and personal grooming.
Career consultant Nish Pai has advice for ethnic and migrant job seekers: find effective ways to market yourself.
"Hiring managers often look for people with the right self-marketing lingo," she says, "But in many Asian cultures for example we're told the opposite: Don't talk too much, be humble, and don't brag - but if you don't brag how will you land a job?"
It's not all doom and gloom for those still on the hunt.
Anastasia is feeling hopeful at the number of job postings that have gone up in recent months.
Chef Z is looking at starting a food truck business, with the help of a flexi-wage subsidy for jobseekers offered by the Government.
"I might as well do my own thing because I'm sick of applying for jobs," he said.
"New Zealand is home now, I need to make the best of it."