Chef Ben Biography
An accomplished award-winning chef, passionate about crafting innovative, balanced dishes, using the best the local region has to offer. Thrives in challenging kitchen environments with the ability of motivating and building loyal teams. Hard-working and reliable employee, with more than 19 year’s chef experience around the world.
Whilst at school, he took a part-time job at an Italian restaurant as a kitchen hand and proved his worth for two years, finally making it to the stovetop. In 1996 he was offered a four-year apprenticeship with Hospitality Group Training at the internationally renowned Regency Institute of Tafe College, Adelaide. Throughout his apprenticeship, he worked at some iconic hotels around Adelaide and completed his final year in The Adelaide Club, a private members only club where he would often find himself cooking for the Governor, Prime Minister, politicians, and even Prince Charles on one occasion. After completing his apprenticeship, he stayed on for another year before working in the Whitsundays on Hamilton Island, Great Barrier Reef for a year. He returned to Adelaide to be closer to his family and decided to team up with a friend from college and started their own catering company. After three and a half years of catering and working part-time at an oyster farm, he decided to move to New Zealand to further explore his culinary passion.
On arriving in New Zealand, he worked a season at the iconic The Boatshed Café in Mapua, whilst also running a strawberry farm. He then took up the position of Head Chef at The House of Ales in Nelson, an up market gastro bar—it was there that he won his first culinary award for best main course and beer match in the “Monteith’s National Wild Food & Beer Challenge”. From there, he developed an interest in using beer in his cuisine and also pairing beer with food, as you would with wine.
Chef Ben then decided it was time to pack his knives & head across the globe where he pursued a position at Hand & Flower in Chelsea, London, where he spent a year as Executive Sous Chef working under the eyes of Nick Rochford, a highly regarded chef among the gastro scene in London. He then decided it was time to follow a lifelong dream, and headed off around Europe on a culinary adventure. After four months of eating his way through Europe and learning as much as he could about different cuisines and cultures, he was then offered the position as Executive Chef at Tamarind House in Rarotonga, Cook Islands. After completing a season there, he was asked to return to New Zealand and took up the Executive Chef role at Auckland’s iconic Iguacu Restaurant.
Whilst at Iguacu, he won his second award gaining: a “Gold Plate Award” in the New Zealand Beef & Lamb Competition. From there he moved onto Sale St Bistro as Executive Chef, where he gained another “Gold Plate Award”. He also entered the Monteith’s Wild Food Challenge again and came runner-up out of 137 restaurants nationwide.
He was then offered the chance to move to Bangkok to take up the position as Executive Chef at No Idea Gastro Bar, on Sukhumvit 22. After a year in Bangkok, he was approached by Issaya Group to head Issaya Cooking School at Central Embassy as the Resident Chef and Manager working under the eyes of one of Sth East Asia’s most acclaimed chefs, Chef Ian Kittichai.
After 3 years in Thailand Chef Ben then relocated to Sumba Island, Indonesia to join the Multi Award winning Nihiwatu resort where he currently resides as Executive Chef.
Check out more on Ben McRae on the nihiwatus website