Thursday, 15 November 2018

WHITIANGA WEATHER

From super yacht to Hot Water Beach

By Jordan Gower

Niklas (Nik) Brandt is 29 years old. Originally from Sweden, he has spent the last two years travelling as a chef. He began his training at 16 years old, was qualified by 19 and has been working as a chef ever since. Somehow, through plenty of experience and a couple of impulse decisions, he landed in Hot Water Beach and now works at Blue Ginger Restaurant in Whitianga.

Nik says his first inspiration around cooking came from being in the kitchen with his grandmother. “She just loved to cook,” he says. “My grandmother taught me about respecting the produce and ingredients. She took so much care and nothing was ever wasted.”

Nik began his culinary training in Sweden in a town called Åre. After qualifying, he was offered work as an apprentice in a restaurant in the town. “The restaurant was focused mostly on European-styled cuisine,” says Nik

“After I had worked in the restaurant for a while, I did a two-week training course so I could become a sous chef. I did that for a year and then the people I was working for opened another restaurant and they asked me to be head chef.”

Nik says his experience as head chef was full-on and a great learning opportunity. He was in charge of everything, from staffing and the profile of the restaurant to food safety and everything in between. “My job was to evolve the restaurant into something we could really be proud of,” says Nik. “We made it all about organic food and local produce.”

After three years as head chef, Nik felt as though he needed to be re-inspired so, naturally, he left his home country with nothing planned apart from some accommodation in the south of France. “I packed up my knives and went to France,” he says. “I just had to wing it.”

Five days after arriving in France, Nik had scored a job on a 70m super yacht. He was only supposed to work on the yacht for two months, but ended up staying for more than a year.

On the yacht, Nik was cabin mates with Hot Water Beach local Sean Butler. They became close friends. “Sean told me to come and visit him in Hot Water Beach, that his door was always open,” Nik says. “So I decided to just go for it and see what would happen.”

Nik arrived in Hot Water Beach in January this year and stayed a few weeks before travelling all over New Zealand. “I ended up back in Hot Water Beach as a base while I looked for a job,” says Nik. "Man gotta work. I was looking around and I got asked to trial for a night at Blue Ginger and here we are nearly four months later.

“I’ve always really liked Asian-style food, so, to me, Blue Ginger is great. I get to be creative, try new dishes for the menu and I feel comfortable to do new and different stuff.”

Nik says that travelling is an extraordinarily eye-opening experience. “Travelling is tough," he says. “Sometimes it’s the best thing ever, but sometimes you just want to hang out with your mum and have a coffee.

“You really get to know yourself, but the thing about that is you might not always like who you find from time to time. I’ve definitely become a more positive person, though.”

How long will Nik stay in Hot Water Beach? “My guess is as good as yours,” he says.

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