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One of the main reasons Jessabel Granada left her home in The Philippines and came to New Zealand was to learn more about kitchen and food culture in new surroundings.

Jess and her partner Andrew James Soriano run the successful restaurant, Nanam, in prestigious Takapuna on Auckland’s North Shore.

They employ AHCTS graduates and students, who enjoy working in the creative kitchen.

The cuisine that is true to the chefs’ Filipino style has found a niche with New Zealand diners and recently, won a spot in much coveted Metro Top 50 list.

Jess and Andrew are young, and they have worked hard to achieve success.

“Before opening Nanam I worked in respected restaurants with experienced chefs,” says Jess.

“I studied culinary arts in The Philippines and working with experienced chefs has helped me develop my career.”

Jess grew up surrounded by chefs and when she came to New Zealand, she spent time in Queenstown restaurants to learn more about Kiwi cuisine.

“Exploring new cultures is a great way to discover more about food.

“I think it’s good for young chefs to do an internship where they are mentored and can grow.”

There are plenty of employment opportunities in New Zealand’s hospitality sector and Jess likes Auckland Hotel and Chefs Training School students and graduates in her kitchen.

Why? Because they have learnt how to be team players, which is essential in a kitchen.

“AHCTS students are confident and courageous. I like their willingness to learn and adapt.”

The skills they learn at AHCTS can be applied to different styles of cookery and being open-minded is important.

“Being a chef is physically and mentally demanding because you only have two hours to please a customer.

“You have to really drive yourself for the whole day and get out of your comfort zone.”

Filipino cuisine is still reasonably new to Auckland and when Nanam opened in 2014, Jess saw an opportunity and challenge to educate diners, which is part of being a restaurateur.

With experienced Kiwi chefs bringing their Michelin star restaurant experience back to New Zealand the standards are constantly improving.

“Hospitality is growing in New Zealand and it’s good to be on that wave of growth. It will get better and better in the coming years,” Jess says.

She enjoys the premium ingredients produced in New Zealand’s rich soil and enjoys being able to safely forage for interesting and natural menu additions, such as wild flowers and mushrooms.

“There are a lot of opportunities here and you have to be passionate to make it.”