Heritage Auckland is delighted to announce the promotion of Gerrard O’Keefe to the role of executive chef. Gerrard has been with the hotel as the executive sous chef for the past 10 months.
Growing up in Auckland, Gerrard had a diverse domestic dining experience that would inform his passion for a life-long culinary career.
At home his father, a former Navy chef, was the main household cook with his mother happily making no contest for dinner duty.
"Dad’s experience catering on ships across the world brought a big range of international dishes to our dining table. Our meals were quite different from what other kids I grew up with ate at home. We dined on searing curries through to exotic Asian dishes. He loved to experiment with ingredients too. I owe a lot of my interest in cuisine to him," says Gerrard.
There were other mentors for Gerrard’s culinary journey on the way too. In 1997, upon leaving school, he took a course at the Auckland hotel and chef school which cemented his plan to make being a chef his career.
The course was full time and Gerrard supported himself as a banquet waiter at the then Sheraton Hotel. He very much admired the chef of the time, Stephen Thompson, who fortunately hired him for the kitchen, letting him skip a level to the hot dishes section on arrival.
The OE soon called Gerrard overseas and he worked as head chef at the Regent Free House London, a Belgian eatery famous for its 150 types of beer on offer and hearty food. He then moved to the more up-market Oxo Tower restaurant where he was chef de partie for two years.
Returning home to Auckland, he worked for Toto, then continuing with the Italian cuisine, joined Scoozi as head chef.
Later, he worked for Iguacu as executive chef before becoming a full-time tutor at NSIA (North Shore International Academy) for the last five years before joining Heritage Auckland.
"I enjoyed the challenge of tutoring and shaping new chefs. Often new recruits don’t realise how much stress, time pressure and logistics there is in producing large quantities of meals each evening in a successful restaurant. There is little glamour, just a lot of hard work but the rewards are great," says Gerrard.
He has judged at Salon Culinaire for several years too watching out for emerging talent.
Being on the crest of the trends is another important part of Gerrard’s career. He was drawn to join Heritage Auckland due to the profile the hotel had spear heading New Zealand’s plant based or vegan cuisine.
"When Heritage Auckland became the first hotel to have a dedicated vegan menu, many in the industry scoffed. But I thought to myself, this company is right on trend and I watched with interest Hectors momentum increase, including becoming the first hotel restaurant to be Vegetarian Society accredited. So I am thrilled to be continuing the legacy of the successful vegan dining direction. It offers a lot of creativity as a chef, and I am enjoying bringing new flavours into the menus from my background and experience," says Gerrard.
Tempting new dishes include chive gnocchi, char-grilled sunflower polenta, spiced garbanzo bean cassoulet and semolina herbed eggplant. Desserts to die for include coconut mango sago with mandarin sorbet mango compote, pumpkin parfait with cinnamon ‘cream’ and raw chocolate delice. (All dairy and gluten free).
Gerrard’s new menu is now available at Heritage Auckland’s Hectors restaurant. Visit www.heritagehotels.co.nz or call Hectors on 09 9797434.
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