Looking for several experiences to learn from others has opened kitchen doors of fine-dining restaurants for a young AHCTS graduate. The chef school’s 2019 top level 4 cookery graduate, Anjamo Nieuwland, has been recognised for his hard work, enthusiasm and skill, which has led to him working in some of Auckland’s most respected restaurants.
When he started at Auckland Hotel and Chefs Training School he didn’t think he wanted to be a chef, but he enrolled in the level 2 class because a friend was doing it. Anjamo was only 16 years old and he felt he had nothing to lose by joining the entry level hospitality course. He thought the training could lead to a job in a café but he quickly realised he was really interested in fine-dining cookery and his tutor, Sach Kadam, helped him gain restaurant experience.
Anjamo wanted to learn as much as possible and he worked for free at Paris Butter in Herne Bay, Auckland while he was studying. He worked there for about 20 hours a week and Paris Butter provided the intensity and quality menu that gave him a good insight into high-end cookery.
“I gained experience and from there, I knew that fine-dining cuisine was what I wanted to create,” says Anjamo.
Chef tutor, Lyal Sherman, helped him gain further experience at The Grove, the only New Zealand restaurant to make the top 25 in the 2019 Tripadvisor – Travellers’ Choice Awards. Working for seven months at a restaurant of this calibre, even as a kitchen-hand, allowed Anjamo to observe how a world class kitchen operates.
“Once I had the dish-washing down, I could turn 180-degrees and the cold larder section was right beside me. I could help them and over time I worked more on cold larder than doing dishes, which was really exciting for me. It was helpful for me to see and experience everything right from the beginning, so starting as a dishwasher and not putting myself directly in a position that I wasn’t ready for was valuable.”
After graduating as AHCTS’s top level 2 student, Anjamo returned to the cookery school to study a New Zealand Certificate in Cookery Level 4. In 2019, he started another dish-washing job at Clooney and the head chef Nobu Lee ensured Anjamo moved around different sections.
“It wasn’t just washing dishes, and sometimes I worked in the larder section and a lot on pastry.”
Eventually, the long commute and too many dishes made Anjamo look for another experience and Nobu approached French Café to see if they could offer him a more cookery-based role. While still studying at AHCTS, Anjamo worked Fridays and Saturdays at Sid at The French Café for free for two months.
“I helped on the canape section, as an introduction to the section I would go into as a paid job. It was the first time running a section by myself, which was a huge step up for me. At the beginning I struggled and questioned if it was the right decision, but I continued on the canape section for seven months.”
Anjamo’s confidence grew but he was uncertain about taking on more responsibility in the lead up to the busy 2019 December season. The restaurant owner offered him a new opportunity with three days at The French Café and two days at award-winning Sidart, which is going well for Anjamo. He likes the cohesive team and in 2020 he worked as a commis chef in the hot section. He wasn’t sure about the contemporary and innovative Indian cuisine but he felt that at the time, Sidart was the best restaurant in New Zealand and was learning a lot.
A few years from his first foray into a teaching kitchen at AHCTS, Anjamo is absolutely committed to his culinary career pathway in fine-dining. He has always been interested in art and creatively presenting quality food is important to him.
Accolades for Anjamo Nieuwland
In 2018, Anjamo won a gold medal and was the seafood soup category winner at the NZChef Association Hospitality Championships. At the time he was studying level 2 cookery and was only 17 years old. He was the top AHCTS level 2 student in 2018 and top level 4 student in 2019.
In 2020, he applied for a 50 Best BBVA Scholarship 2020 and at the time of writing, Anjamo had made the list of finalists – a phenomenal accomplishment.
Mum is Anjamo’s biggest fan
At competitions and graduations, Anjamo’s mum is extremely supportive and shares her pride about his achievements.
When Anjamo was at mainstream school in New Zealand he knew it wasn’t for him, which worried his mum. When he left school, he had no idea what he wanted to do and through family friends he discovered AHCTS. He had always enjoyed cooking with his mum and thought he may as well give chefs school a go.
After a few months he realised cooking was something he could do well and there was potential for a rewarding and successful career. The AHCTS team looks forward to watching Anjamo’s culinary career develop and the world’s fine-diners can expect some exceptional cuisine from this young New Zealander.