Brits Abroad – Brian Campbell

21 November 2011 by
Brits Abroad – Brian Campbell

Brian Campbell is the pastry chef for the Kawarau Village in Queenstown, New Zealand, which comprises two hotels, four restaurants and banqueting rooms. He spoke to Janet Harmer

Can you give me a broad outline of your current position? I look after all the pastry production at Kawarau Village, which includes the five- star Hilton Queensland and the four-star Kawarau hotel, managed by Hilton Worldwide. This covers our flagship restaurant the Wakatipu Grill, Me and Mee Noodle bar, Stacks Pub and the Lake Counter deli, as well as banqueting rooms. We are situated on Lake Wakatipu, at the base of the Remarkable Mountain Range. The hotels only opened in May 2011.

Where else have you worked overseas before New Zealand ? I've done stages all over Spain - they have some of the best restaurants in the world - as well as in the USA. I moved to New Zealand six years ago and, apart from a brief stint back in the UK, I have been here ever since and have just been granted my residency.

What encouraged you to work in New Zealand in the first place? I was called by an old friend saying that the French Café, which is one of New Zealand's iconic restaurants, was looking for a pastry chef with European training. I hadn't previously considered working in New Zealand, but I thought I would give it a go.

How did you get your current job? I have been working with the head chef at the Wakatipu Grill, Peter Thornley - a well known TV chef here in New Zealand - for the past four-and-a-half years in a couple of restaurants. When he asked me to join him I couldn't say no considering the location and standard of the hotels.

How easy/difficult was it to arrange a working visa for New Zealand? Now that I'm a resident, I have no more worries on that score, but it is not too difficult getting a work visa as long as you have all your ducks in a row, such as health certificates, police reports, references, etc.

How has working abroad enhanced your career? It's opened my eyes to different produce such as feijoa, a sweet, aromatic fruit, and flavours from the surrounding regions. With New Zealand being such a young country with regards to cuisine, it is influenced a lot by Asia and the Pacific islands, as well as Europe.

What have been the chief challenges of working in New Zealand? It took a while to get around the seasons being reversed and having a warm Christmas. The availability of produce can also be a pain. If I need 100% Valrhona chocolate, I have to make sure I give my supplier plenty of notice as it has to be imported and can sometimes take weeks, if not months, to arrive.

What do you like about working in New Zealand? The atmosphere in the kitchens is good, and you're always working with an eclectic group. Currently in the Grill, I'm working with chefs from the UK, Ireland, France, Italy, India, Sri Lanka, Chile and New Zealand. There is also a good work/life balance here, with easy accessibility of sports and pastimes.

What do you dislike about working in New Zealand? It can be difficult to find trained chefs and keep them. Qualified chefs are like gold.

What are the key aspects of hospitality in New Zealand which the British could learn from? For me New Zealand has the best cafes of all the countries I have been to, offering great service but laid back at the same time. Kiwis are very welcoming.

Do you liaise with other British expats working in hospitality in New Zealand? Quite a few chefs I know in the industry here are English guys from the fantastic country house hotels back home, such as the ex-Gidleigh Park chef, Dale Gartland who is the executive chef for sister properties Matakauri Lodge, Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers, which are Relais & Chateaux hotels here in New Zealand.

Commis chef, Malmaison, Glasgow
â- 2001-2003 Head pastry chef, Lucknam Park, near Bath
â- 2003-2004 Head pastry chef, Bath Priory
â- 2004-2005 Chef de partie, The Square, London
â- 2005-2006 Head pastry chef, The French Café, Auckland, New Zealand
â- 2006-2007 Head pastry chef, Fawsley Hall, Daventry
â- 2007-2008 Head pastry chef, Bracu, Auckland, New Zealand
â- 2008-2011 Head pastry chef, Kermadec, Auckland, New Zealand
â- 2011-present Executive pastry chef, Hilton Kawarau Village, Queenstown, New Zealand

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