Chef Prabakaran Manickam is the Taste New Zealand 2014 winner, if you haven’t read my previous post about the competition, you can check it here.
Get to know him more through the questions I asked him
1- When did you know you wanted to be a chef?
I knew that I wanted to be a chef once I graduated from University with a degree in
Hotel Management. I started my career as a trainee at Centre Point; the four star hotel in
Nagpur, where my culinary talents were first recognized. Food and organization are in
my DNA, when I chose to study Hotel Management and become a chef, my family urged
me to get as much hands-on experience as I could. I realized in college that cooking was
the career I was searching for; a reliable job that was creative and let me do something
that I love.
2- Where were you trained and how difficult was your training?
In the fourth year of my BSc qualification, I was still peeling onions and garlic at 5am
in a hotel kitchen in India. I worked between 16 and 18 hours per day to prep for
banqueting functions and I think it was a test of my patience and attitude. I just put my
head down and did the work required. It is never difficult if you love what you do.
3- How do you get your inspiration?
It is difficult to identify one thing as my inspiration. I feel like I am always surrounded
by inspiration, like my Executive Chef, Roy; he is a great chef, leader, teacher and
disciplinarian. He is very focused on flavour and creativity and his results are always
exceptional. I also get inspired when I read famous chefs’ cook books and when I see the
incredible products we get to work with.
4- What is your favorite kitchen equipment?
Rational CombiMaster and Hamilton Beach Blender
5- What are your favorite foods to cook with?
Fresh vegetables and herbs, especially basil & rosemary.
6- What is the funniest kitchen incident you’ve had?
Too many to recollect!
One of our customers ordered a medium rare strip loin so we cooked the steak medium
rare as requested. When the waiter presented the steak to the customer, he was told by
the customer that he wanted a medium rare steak and not what he had received.
So we made another one, rare to medium rare but once again the waiter brought it back
to the kitchen.
I then went to the customer to find out what he actually wanted and he told me that
“you people don’t know how to cook medium rare, I need a piece of meat with no red
color and no blood”
Some people don’t know a well done steak!!
7- Do you do the cooking at home?
Honestly, I don’t eat much at home due to the long hours in the restaurant, but when I
do cook at home, I like to do a big family style meal for friends. I usually do baked fish,
something big with a bone in it, and serve it with a bunch of easy side dishes of green
8- Do you have a cooking tip for those who like to cook at home?
• Organize your work space and get the right equipment.
• Find a good recipe and follow it – the next time you make it, tweak it and make it
your own. Recipe is a guideline. Experiment!!!
• Nothing slows you down more in the kitchen than blunt knives. Invest in good
• Herbs and spices are essential for making great-tasting food that’s healthy too.
I hope that you are getting inspired by my Chef Series, and until the next one 🙂