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22/01/16 12:47 pm
Two of New Zealand’s top chefs and restaurateurs were
recognised at AUT’s annual hospitality awards, with Simon Gault
and Judith Tabron honoured for their “Outstanding contribution to
the hospitality and tourism community”.
AUT’s School of Hospitality and Tourism holds an awards event
every year to acknowledge its top students but this is the first
time it has recognised industry achievements. Both Gault and
Tabron graduated from AUT.
“The award recognises outstanding performance over a
sustained period,” says AUT Senior Lecturer in Hospitality,
Lindsay Neill. “It is recognition of a contribution to raising
the standard of hospitality in New Zealand and to increasing
awareness of New Zealand as a cuisine destination.”
Tabron’s latest contribution to New Zealand’s dining scene
is Soul Bar on Auckland’s Viaduct, which she opened in 2000.
Soul lost a couple of key staff recently – Geeling Ng who worked
with Tabron for many years as operations manager and maître
d’ and more recently executive chef Gareth Stewart, who moved
across the wharf to head up Euro and Relish Group’s eight other
restaurants following Gault’s resignation.
Scottish-born Chris Law is Soul’s new head chef and he’s no
stranger to the Auckland dining mainstay, arriving at Soul in 2001
where he stayed for 18 months. He returned again from the UK in
2009 with his Kiwi wife and children, and slotted straight back into
Soul, where he’s been for the past five years. Last year he stepped
into the head chef role after Stewart’s departure.
Gault is now focusing more on his own ventures – the Home
Cuisine and Sous Chef ranges and the Sous Chef Deli Shop recently
opened in Takanini. Working with the Relish Group for 12 years, Gault
helped open its string of restaurants and Euro was the first New
Zealand restaurant to make the Conde Nast Top 50 Restaurants list.
Neill says the awards are also a celebration of the “coming of
age of hospitality in Aotearoa New Zealand. These successful
people exemplify a gateway into an exciting, challenging and
rewarding career option and they offer a great example to inspire
and motivate young professionals joining our industry.”
NZ hospitality comes of age
Soul’s rollercoaster year
Judith Tabron won’t be forgetting last year in a hurry.
Despite receiving executive chef Gareth Stewart’s notice
of his departure to head up Euro the day before she was to
embark on a three-month sabbatical, it was testament to
the team’s strength that Tabron was able to proceed with her
And again, testament to Tabron’s exemplary management,
there was virtually no disruption to service, “Ultimately
it worked out for everyone involved and we were able to
continue operating business as usual,” she says.
One of the first women chef apprentices in the country, Tabron
went on to open her first restaurant, Ramses, in 1989 and after 16
years running Soul, she’s in a very enviable – and rare – position
for a hospitality operator. Staff shortages have never been an issue
for her, a fact she attributes to providing a solid apprenticeship
programme and creating a supportive family culture.
Training has always been a major focus for Tabron and she’s
concerned not enough operators are prepared to commit to
apprenticeship programmes that help young employees get
ahead in their careers, which ultimately benefit the industry.
“We offer our staff the opportunity to gain a job qualification
while earning on the job. It’s an opportunity for school leavers to
attain experience without incurring huge student loans and the
experience benefits them
the most when applying
for jobs in the field.”
Tabron knows first-
hand the importance of
quality training early on,
“I was lucky to work with
some very good people
in the first ten years of
my career. From 16 to 26
years of age I learnt a lot
from my mentors and
that’s what ultimately got
me ahead combined with
sheer blind determination
This year, Tabron’s
looking forward to
another research trip,
and is heading to Houston, New Orleans and Chicago, where the
latest flavour sensations are waiting to inspire. And customers
back home will notice some changes, with a new bar area and a
fresh new interior expected to feature around July.
Suitably acknowledged by AUT, Judith
Tabron and Simon Gault, with from left,
AUT’s Fergus Clark, Linda O’Neill,
David Comery and Nigel Hemmington.
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