New Zealand chef Josh Emett is rated amongst the best in the world but the country boy from Hamilton has never forgotten his roots.
"Idyllic" is the way Emett describes his childhood in New Zealand and long summer days spent fishing with his grandfather provided powerful memories and life skills relevant to this day.
The quiet farm in Ngahinapouri - outside Hamilton in the Waikato region - where 37-year-old Emett grew up is a far cry from the bustling kitchens of the world where the proud Kiwi has worked with the likes of Gordon Ramsay.
Emett''s rise to chef stardom has taken him on a global journey to some of the most famous and highly acclaimed eating establishments where he’s worked with top international chefs and wowed the rich and famous with his culinary talents - but he’s quick to point out the attributes of the place he still calls home.
Fresh from time in Melbourne where he was responsible for setting up Ramsay’s Australian restaurants - maze and maze Grill - Emett is back in New Zealand after more than 10 years of international experience and about to open a new restaurant in Queenstown.
Emett says he discovered his passion for cooking while growing up on the family farm where he received his first cookbook at the age of nine. His family spent much of their time working on the farm so Emett says he began cooking out of necessity.
New Zealand training
After school Emett trained at Waikato Polytechnic then went on to honing his skills at fine New Zealand restaurants like Cin Cin on Quay in Auckland.
Emett then moved to Australia and worked under Donovan Cooke for three years at est est est - one of Melbourne’s most highly regarded restaurants of the time.
In 1999, he moved to the south of France and worked as a chef on luxury yachts to save money for a move to London.
By 2000 he was working with Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea as senior chef de partie.
Emett quickly worked his way up the ranks in the kitchen and, during his first year there, the restaurant was awarded three Michelin stars, making it the only three-star restaurant in London.
Gordon Ramsay at Claridge''s
In 2001, he was transferred to work under head chef Mark Sargeant for the launch of the critically acclaimed Gordon Ramsay at Claridge''s.
His technique, unique ability and creative way of combining only the best ingredients led him to join chef patron Marcus Wareing as head chef at the famous British restaurant The Savoy Grill which had just been refurbished and reopened in 2003.
Emett continued to win over the critics and in January 2004 the restaurant won a Michelin star, its first in more than 100 years of operation.
In late 2006, the Kiwi chef was on the move again - this time to the United States to oversee Gordon Ramsay at The London NYC and later Gordon Ramsay at The London West Hollywood.
Within his first year, Gordon Ramsay at The London NYC was awarded two Michelin stars and Gordon Ramsay at The London West Hollywood one Michelin star.
Emett receives constant praise for his cooking with exceptional reviews in the British and American press, and in 2008 he was named ‘New York Rising Star Chef’.
In January 2010 he returned down-under, this time to Melbourne with responsibility for opening maze and maze Grill - in the Crown Metropol hotel.
He is renowned for attention to detail and claims he’s like most chefs - a "control freak".
Emett says he has very little down time but is an avid sportsman claiming physical fitness contributes to his performance in the kitchen - and chooses running and tennis to keep in shape.
Skiing and fishing
In New Zealand Emett likes to ski but says he still gets most pleasure out of fishing.
"As a child I spent most summers fishing with my grandfather and learned how to fillet fish and smoke it - I can’t think of a more idyllic childhood than mine in New Zealand. It was all right - nothing wrong."
He says his favourite holiday spot is the Coromandel Peninsula where his family had a house for many years.
"It is, quiet, no traffic, by the beach, seagulls - easy. I love the outdoor life. New Zealand is an outdoorsy country, it’s what you do here and part of being a Kiwi I think," says Emett.
Emett says New Zealand cuisine has come a long way and the simplicity and freshness of the produce has become world renowned.
"The majority of people who come down here know about it, I don’t have to tell them. They know the food is fresh, local, extremely seasonal - it has to be, so very fresh. People love the country, the people, the ease of it and the accessibility of everything. New Zealand is such an easy sell - there’s no talking it up, it’s all there."
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