Zach’s Story – Abandoned Brewery Head Chef and Cookery graduate

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Cookery graduate Zach Meech has recently stepped into the role of Head Chef at Abandoned Brewery’s new Petone site. From the get-go, Zach has been hands-on, hiring his own team, and building the kitchen from scratch. Zach’s role has him dealing with a little bit of everything—creating the menu, dealing with suppliers, training staff and cleaning fridges. We spoke to Zach about his experience and how he landed at Abandoned Brewery in Petone.  

A passion for cookery 

From a young age, Zach had always had a love of food but had heard that being a Chef could be high stress, so wasn’t sure if it was for him.  

“I was obsessed with food and cooking ever since I was a teenager. Making elaborate pastas for lunch, and baking lime pies for my flat mates. I was a bit resistant to becoming a chef because of all the stories about stress and pressure. Eventually I decided to go for it, and I loved it.”   

Building a foundation of skills 

When Zach studied, the programme was known as the “Level 4 Diploma in Culinary Arts”, these days, the equivalent would be the Level 4 Certificate in Cookery. The year-long practical programme introduces students with little to no experience to the culinary field. Students learn various cooking methods, food preparation, food safety, and techniques required to create a variety of restaurant style dishes from meat and poultry (or entrees and mains) to pastry and desserts. 

The focus on practical work appealed to Zach, and he had no aversion to sampling so many types of dishes, saying he “ate like a king”.  

“I appreciated the focus on techniques through learning recipes. I learned how to think of what I wanted the outcome of a dish to be and what tools I needed to make it happen. I loved how it was 95% practical. My tutor Toby was a great teacher and a nice guy.” 

Diving into the industry 

During his course, Zach got his foot in the door doing work experience at Monterey in Newtown, a small smoked meats and burger restaurant. Once he graduated, they offered him a full-time job. After that, he picked up various different skills at companies across the Wellington region; learning about allergies at a high-end childcare centre, variety as a temp chef at catering companies, and eventually, Seashore Cabaret, where he worked his way up to Sous Chef. That then led to the opportunity at Abandoned Brewery.  

Creative freedom in the kitchen 

Zach loves the variety and freedom at Abandoned Brewery. He’s got a lot of work to do, but he’s able to get creative. The menu at Abandoned Brewery includes a range of “Big F*ck-off Sandwiches” and tasty sides. They even feature a “Scheckters Rueben” and a “Scheckters Layla”, resurrected versions of the popular sandwiches at the famous Scheckter’s Deli which occupied the space before Abandoned Brewery.   

Zach Abandoned 0112 Enhanced NR web

“I was hired before Abandoned opened, before the kitchen was built, so I was able to hire my own small team and learn about how to start a kitchen from scratch, which is a really cool experience. There’s a lot of things you don’t think about, like how the kitchen is laid out, or what equipment you need to buy, and should I hire that weird smelling guy?” 

“In a small kitchen and small team, my role really includes a little bit of everything. From creating and costing the menu, to dealing with suppliers, to cleaning fridges to staff training, to getting annoyed when someone comes in at 9.30pm on a Wednesday. I do a bit of everything.”   

To anyone interested in studying cookery, Zach says “even if you're not sure you want to make a career out of it, it’s worth studying to learn about food. It’s an affordable and short course that you get a lot out of”. 

Study Cookery in Petone  

Get all the ingredients for a fulfilling career. Learn in-demand skills from experienced tutors. Hone your passion for food with a cookery qualification.  

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