Illustration by Victoria Krylov

Head of the Table — The hospitality icons who have made life-long careers in the industry

Words by Margie Riddiford, Sjaan Askwith and Claire Sullivan-Kraus
Photography by Anna Saveleva

It’s a commonplace misconception that the vast and varied world of hospitality is merely a temporary career that coexists with travelling the world, or studying. Yet the multi-billion dollar industry has also born some of our fondest personalities, along with some of our country’s greatest entrepreneurial success stories. Here, we set out to challenge perceptions by introducing some of the icons of the industry. Those who have chosen to dedicate their careers to bringing joy and elevating our own lives by sharing their passion for hospitality.

Many of us have been there; working at the local cafe, waiting tables in a fine dining restaurant, pouring beers behind the bar at a pub, or flipping burgers at a takeaway joint. Considered somewhat of a right of passage from school to career, working in hospitality is in fact a fast track education into understanding how the real world operates. Here, expectations run high and the pressure is always on, but when harmony is achieved the result is incredibly rewarding. People are drawn to the industry for the camaraderie, the building of self-confidence, the sparking of creativity and the connections that are made. There’s no denying the magic that comes from a full bar or dining room that’s humming with the energy of people enjoying themselves — all thanks to the efforts of a well conducted team of passionate people. This alone can sow the seed for future success. In New Zealand the $20+ billion dollar industry employs more than 200,000 people, making it one of our country’s largest business sectors, which in turn makes the opportunities for a lifelong, and fruitful career even greater. Still, there is a perception that it is there to serve as a transitory workplace while you’re figuring out where your real future lies. Yet stories of both success and satisfaction are everywhere. Be it as a chef, bartender, front of house, behind the scenes, a restaurant owner, or anything in between, within so many bustling kitchens and vibrant venues there are opportunities for connection, confidence, creativity, skill, and, most importantly: a career brimming with potential. The beauty of working in hospitality is that there’s not a formulaic, one-track path to success. A foot in the door is all you need, and once you’re in, skills build and, given their universality, can be easily transferred from one role to the next as your confidence and success grows. Pivoting through the industry until the right role clicks is part of the journey. To show just how true this is in practice, and how a career can grow from a simple weekend gig washing dishes, we sat down with some of Auckland’s hospitality icons to hear how they turned a passion into a craft, and a craft into a rewarding career. 

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Head of the Table


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