Chef brings world of flavours to his table

Last updated 10:03 24/01/2013

Friendly service: Ohau Cafe owner/operator Mark Cohen.

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Ohau Cafe and Restaurant's Mark Cohen has cooked for the rich and famous, including celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay and talkshow host Oprah Winfrey.

However, it was making eggs benedict for his idol, New Zealand cooking icon Alison Holst who visited the cafe a fortnight ago, that had him most nervous.

"It was quite nerve-racking, but she was lovely and really appreciative of the food," he said.

"She still has that amazingly reassuring voice which I remember from television. She has a bach down the road and said she would be back with friends. If I can control my nerves, cooking for her next time will be a pleasure."

Mr Cohen has had a lifelong passion for cooking, starting out in the industry while still at school in the 1980s, helping his father Jacques Cohen in the family bakery in Wellington.

Going on to study hospitality at Wellington Polytechnic and graduating in 1994, Mr Cohen lived at home with his parents for a year while working for free at Zinos Restaurant in Island Bay to develop skills as a chef.

He then completed a three- year apprenticeship at the Terrace Regency Hotel in Wellington before heading overseas in 1998. He worked in Northern Europe, including Michelin Star-awarded Shanks Restaurant in Northern Ireland in the late 1990s, where many celebrities frequented, including the likes of Gordon Ramsay and Oprah Winfrey. He also worked in the Middle East and North and South America.

Returning to Wellington in 2005, he worked in the kitchen at the Miramar Golf Club and at Victoria University.

Mr Cohen moved to Levin in 2006 and established the Niaroo Cafe at the garden centre just south of Levin.

In 2008 he opened Ohau Cafe and Restaurant, also serving as a function centre, with the help of his parents, now living at Waikawa Beach.

Married with two young children, Mr Cohen said the food was inspired by working in Europe and America and included East Asian cuisine, with ingredients and produce sourced locally.

"For instance our eggs, bread, dairy, pork, veges are all from within 10 kilometres of the cafe and knowing the producers helps give us the pick of the bunch," he said.

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- Horowhenua Mail

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