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International culinary graduate heads prestigious restaurant

03 Feb 2023

Vicky Shah, 26-year-old graduate from The Culinary Collective, is the head chef at KOL based in Ponsonby, Auckland.

Cookery can often be overlooked as a career option, but for some, it is much more than a profession, it is the cornerstone of culture, self-identity, and the charms of their homeland.

New Zealand is an attractive destination for international students passionate about carving out a career in the culinary arts.  Why? Vicky Shah, graduate from The Culinary Collective (formerly NSIA), explains: “Apart from the country’s picturesque landscapes, New Zealand reflects unique food culture hallmarked by a diverse mix of flavours and histories.”

“The country is a melting pot of Asian, Pacific, Māori and European cultures with endless inspiration to create delectable dishes – it’s no wonder why students from India want to study and work here.”

Vicky is the head chef and profit shareholder of KOL, a restaurant based in the foody district of Ponsonby, nodded as the must-visit destination of the season.

Vicky says without his mother, he wouldn’t be where he is today.

“I grew up helping my mother in the kitchen, who was an excellent cook in her own right. By the time I was 14 years old, I knew I wanted to be a chef so I could share her superpower of bringing people together with good food.”

As Vicky reflects on the milestones of his career, he is taken back to 2014 when he had just moved from India to New Zealand and enrolled at The Culinary Collective.

“Pursuing a tertiary qualification at The Culinary Collective allowed me to learn modern-day cooking techniques to catapult my career as a chef in a new country.

I was also able to properly settle into Kiwi life, get the guidance I needed and make new friends.”

While working part-time in SkyCity during his studies, Vicky met Chef Sid Sahrawat through a family member. Sahrawat would later become his long-time mentor – showing him the ins and outs of Auckland fine dining.

After working side-by-side with Sahrawat at SIDART, the city’s leading Indian fine-dining restaurant, Vicky was recruited to be the head chef as part of Sahrawat’s restaurant empire – Sid at The French Café, Cassia, and now KOL.

With mastery skills in the kitchen, Vicky was given the opportunity to curate the KOL menu and innovate the offering of Sahrawat’s other restaurants.

“With the rise in Indian people born in New Zealand, the Sahrawats and I are committed to changing perceptions around what Indian cuisine can be.”

“We want to intertwine the diverse cultures of New Zealand on a plate by combining the smoky twist of Indian street food with the dishes Kiwis know and love – showing there is much more to Indian food than curry.”

Vicky’s personal favourite on the KOL menu is the Goan spiced potato gnocchi, which adds a hint of spice to an Italian classic.

“This dish shows what magic can happen when you infuse the herbs and spices of India into a well-known dish.”

“I look forward to seeing what other talented chefs come up with to innovate the Indian cuisine.”