“We’re always learning. Cooking is like the medical industry there’s always something new and exciting, whether it’s a new product or a piece of equipment that enables you to do the job quicker or faster. The industry is constantly evolving and it’s exciting to be a part of it,” Richard said.
Christchurch born and bred, Richard’s path into a career in food started with work experience in a commercial kitchen followed by study at Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT).
With his diploma in hand, Richard headed overseas to pursue his dream of perfecting the art of pastry-making. Landing in London, he studied under esteemed Professor John Huber - affectionately known as the ‘King of Pastry’- at Thames Valley University in Slough. Studying pastry led Richard to another of his great loves, wife Adele, whom he met whilst on the course. She, like Richard, is also a pastry chef.
Whilst in London, Richard became the first Kiwi to gain membership of the Academy Culinaire de France winning an excellence award in pastry. He furthered his experience with roles at fine dining establishments including: the Ritz Hotel, Hyatt Carlton Tower, Harrods, Waldorf Hotel, the Four Seasons Inn on the Park; and the House of Commons.
Richard and Adele later returned to Christchurch and for the next 13 years, Richard worked at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. In 2010, he took up the position of Head Chef and Kitchen Manager at the refurbished Grand Café at Christchurch Casino. While working with a spouse may not be to everyone’s liking, it’s proven to be a winning formula for Richard and Adele as they now both work together in the kitchen at Christchurch Casino.
Richard credits Adele’s support as key in helping him advance in his career. “She’s a great supporter of me and as she is in the trade she knows and understands what’s involved.” Richard juggles his day-to-day role with helping to grow the next batch of chefs, as well as mentoring over 50 food service employees at the Casino. His skills and expertise are also highly sought after as a judge at culinary events, including Nestlé Toque d’Or - New Zealand’s leading restaurant service and hospitality event for tertiary students.
“Nestlé Toque d’Or gives young chefs the opportunity to refine their skills. It also sets a good bench mark for them to test their abilities against their peers. It’s all about improvement and learning new ways of doing things,” Richard said. While he enjoys working in the industry, he is quick to acknowledge that it isn’t for the faint hearted.
“Patience, dedication, drive and a desire to learn and take criticism are all desirable traits for someone wanting to pursue a career as a chef. “Success at events such as Nestlé Toque d’Or, which is recognised world-wide, shows that you have some of the key attributes needed for a career in food.”
Richard has himself successfully competed in a number of international culinary events. He will join other industry professionals in the NZChefs squad to compete at the Culinary Olympics in Erfurt, Germany in October this year. Downtime for Richard is divided between watching his two sons play competitive rugby, gardening, and hunting. A regular contributor to NZ Hunter magazine, he enjoys sharing his experiences and recipes for wild game.
As he nears his third decade in the food industry, Richard shows no signs of losing the enthusiasm for doing what he does best. He plans to continue sharing his love of food with his family, team and customers for some time to come.