Chefs praise one of their own

TOP CHEF: Peter Ray was named as prestigious 2011 Culinarian of the Year last month.
TOP CHEF: Peter Ray was named as prestigious 2011 Culinarian of the Year last month.

Being named Culinarian of the Year came as a shock to Peter Ray.

But considering his 34-year cooking history and expertise in the kitchen, it's no wonder that his peers nominated him for the prestigious title.

The SkyCity sous chef was praised for his continued support to the industry last month at the New Zealand Chefs Association annual general meeting.

The Mt Eden resident says he was absolutely gobsmacked to hear his name called for the award.

"It's given to people in the industry who have gone the extra mile," he says.

Mr Ray says his time spent training apprentices and judging competitions domestically and internationally would have contributed to the award being given to him.

"There are a lot of successful chefs I have trained and supported. I have also been assistant chief judge of the kitchen at the National Culinary Fare for the past four years," he says.

Chefs association president Anita Sarginson says: "Peter upholds the traditions of quality craftsmanship in the kitchen in a world that sees many chefs having to take shortcuts. One of his nominees stated he does not seek the limelight or praise but is there when needed and we believe this is why Peter Ray is an outstanding candidate."

However, none of this comes without a vast amount of experience, something Mr Ray isn't short of.

"At the end of 1977 I applied for a chef's position in the navy but I missed out."

"Then a friend of mine in Brisbane said if I was over there in a week I could try out with a chef for an apprenticeship, which I did for three months before securing a four-year apprenticeship."

Mr Ray moved to Sydney where he worked at the San Francisco Grill for two years as a commis chef then another two years as a demi chef.

In 1983 he returned to New Zealand to work a short stint at the Te Puke Country Lodge as a sous chef while looking for a job in Auckland.

After securing a job, he worked his way up to the position of executive chef over nine years in Auckland restaurants.

He then went to SkyCity as sous chef to run the Compass Brasserie for a year before seeking an executive sous chef's post.

"Now I'm sous chef of the hot production kitchen. I've completed Restaurant and Chef of the Year and have 35 medals in total from competitions," Mr Ray says.

"It was overwhelming to be announced.

"It's nice to be acknowledged by my peers for the effort I have put in over the past few years."

SkyCity general manager of food and beverage Danny Bucalo says: "SkyCity is proud to have such an outstanding and influential industry professional working both in our kitchens and with our young chefs.

"Peter is a truly inspirational leader in his field and it's great to see him being recognised in this way."

Mr Ray says input from SkyCity director of kitchens Mark Wylie and executive manager of conventions and out-catering Warren Bias have made the award well worth it.

Auckland City Harbour News