Second NZ Chef of Year title icing on cake

21:07, Aug 27 2013
Ken O’Connell
Ken O’Connell

A Te Anau chef who left school early to follow his culinary dream has been announced New Zealand Chef of the Year for a second time.

Distinction Hotels Southern Region Group executive chef Ken O'Connell won the title at the New Zealand Culinary Fare, organised by the Restaurant Association of New Zealand, in Auckland.

Mr O'Connell took home a gold trophy.

Ten competitors competed in the three-day event, which tested their culinary skills in three events including live main and dessert, cooking against the clock, a theory test and static presentation.

Mr O'Connell, who has been a chef for 28 years, said he had used Southland ingredients in his dishes including Southland rack of lamb and Fiordland venison and crayfish.

He had been cooking since the age of 14 and his first job was in a kitchen, he said.


"Cooking is my passion . . . I left school at 16 because I knew what I wanted to do."

Mr O'Connell had competed in several competitions, including the Culinary World Cup, and had received about 80 awards. He also won the New Zealand Chef of the Year title in 2008.

Winning the title for a second time meant more because it cemented his skills, knowledge and ability as a chef, he said.

"I hope this inspires the young chefs in my kitchens that anything is possible with hard work, training and pushing yourself to be the best." 

The Southland Times