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Prize gives award-winning chef entrée to the top


Nickolas Han could well be one New Zealand’s next great chefs. He’s doing pretty well so far. Having got into the profession through a casual kitchen role, he seems to be on the express dumbwaiter to the top.

After a spell in the South Korean military and armed with a degree in applied microbiology, Nickolas was still searching for the right career. As luck would have it, a job as a kitchen hand in an Italian restaurant proved life-changing. Even from this lowly position, the aromas, flavours and energy of the kitchen made something click in his mind.

Fast-forward five years: Nickolas is now a chef at the Pacific International Hotel Management School in New Plymouth; he’s just completed his ServiceIQ Cookery apprenticeship, and last year he stole the show at Auckland’s Culinary Fare winning the prestigious ServiceIQ Cookery Apprentice of the Year 2014 Award.

The prize was a trip to the famous Melbourne Food & Wine Festival. He recently got back from the dazzling culinary event, excited and inspired. No wonder: his adventure included masterclasses where he got to mix it up with some of the best cooks in the world.

He says: “I was thrilled and very fortunate. The chefs were so keen to share their ideas and stories. It was very inspirational and a unique chance to develop new skills.”

Nickolas discovered the fine art of creating salted honeycomb donuts from celebrated UK chef Justin Gellatly of Bread Ahead in London; French Malay fusion desserts by Singapore’s Janice Wong; sausage making with American chef Jamie Bissonnette, and he developed a taste for the wild from Canadian chef Jeremy Charles who hunts, fishes and forages for his menu ingredients.

“It was a gastronomic playground.” says Nickolas.   

He tried dishes from every corner of the earth in search of surprising flavours, colours, textures and aromas. His favourite was a seven-course Arabic degustation dinner that he describes in one word: “divine”.

Back home, he’s cooking up plans to achieve his ambition to be a world-famous chef, like his French hero and the creator of nouvelle cuisine, Paul Bocuse.

“Melbourne has inspired me even more than I was before. I’m planning on going overseas next year. I want to have a different experience. Cooking drives me to be creative and every day I wake up and look forward to the challenges ahead of me.

“Most of all, I’m very proud to be a chef.”

P1100154 Nickolas on the Masterclass

Selfie with Jamie Bissonnette Nickolas with Chef Jamie Bissonnette

For more information, please contact ServiceIQ on 0800 863 693 or email