The Executive Chef & Restaurant Owner

Introducing Executive Chef, Restaurant Owner & hospo icon Michael Meredith

Where I started: Chef at Vinnies in Herne Bay (aged 19). 
Where I am now: Executive Head Chef and Owner of Metita at SkyCity and Mr Morris.

If you know anything about Auckland’s dining scene, you’ll be familiar with the name Michael Meredith. This renowned chef has been operating at a high level in the best kitchens of this city for decades and he has owned (or still owns) some of the most popular restaurants around town. Over the course of his career, the impact his work has had on our wider dining landscape is undeniable, but as he articulates, his success can only be credited to years of hard work and an almost unmatched dedication to his craft. 

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Speaking in the private dining room of the restaurant he opened last year in SkyCity, Metita (a homage not only to the Pacific cuisine he grew up with in Samoa but to his mum’s cooking), Meredith shares how food and the concept of hospitality has always been a part of his life. “My mother was in the food business so as a child, my earliest memories of food were helping her in the kitchen or at local markets,” he says. “It was always there in the background, I grew up with it and really, it’s only been recently that I’ve looked back on that time and realised how influential it was on everything I ended up doing.” 

Indeed, Meredith’s latest restaurant feels like a full-circle moment for the chef, who opened Metita with a vision for bringing contemporary Pacific cuisine — inspired by his childhood — to discerning Auckland diners, and was a venture that came off the back of his success at Mr Morris, the acclaimed Britomart spot he opened a few years ago. “My passion for this industry and my dream of opening my own restaurant and owning my own business was really ignited in my first job, working as a chef at a place called Vinnies in Herne Bay,” he tells me. “Once I had that passion, I was converted, I had this drive and I just knew that this was what I wanted to do with my life.” 

This deep love for his craft and for the moments of creativity he could find within cooking was what kept Meredith going, even through the hustle and bustle of hospitality service, the long hours, the changeable pay and the challenges that inevitably came with kitchen work. “If you want to succeed as a chef at a high level, you have to be very passionate, and you have to have a dream,” he says. “And while things are different now than from when I was coming up, that underlying idea of hard work and of putting in the hours and paying your dues is, in my opinion, the only way to grow.” He pauses, “I wouldn’t be where I am if I was doing 40 hours or less a week. It’s just impossible. Success in this world has to be earned, because that’s how you actually learn from it.”

“If you want to succeed as a chef at a high level, you have to be very passionate, and have a dream… and that underlying idea of hard work and of putting in the hours and paying your dues is, in my opinion,
the only way to grow.”

Throughout Meredith’s impressive career, from working at such cornerstone restaurants as Antoine’s and Vinnies, to being the founding chef of The Grove (for which he won The Lewisham Award), to his first foray into restaurant ownership at the multi-award-winning Meredith’s in Mount Eden, to now, owning two lauded Auckland institutions, the chef has remained true to the tenants that ignited his passion for cooking in the first place. “Creativity has always been the best thing about what I do, because when you’re in the moment, things will just flow and bringing an idea together to get an amazing product is so fulfilling.” 

For Meredith, the appeal and scope of cheffing goes beyond the kitchen, too. “Being in this industry gives you so many amazing opportunities to travel,” he tells me, “and the learning never stops, no matter how far you get, you never stop growing, which is something I also love about it.” This idea plays into a project outside his usual scope of operation that he tells me has been on his mind for a while. “I would love to give something back and do more community work in a not-for-profit capacity,” he tells me. “I want to not only help people have access to good food but to teach them how to feed themselves well… it’s something that’s really close to my heart but it will take a little while to get it up and running.” 

At the end of our conversation, I wonder what kind of advice someone with Meredith’s experience would give a young person at the start of their career in the kitchen. “Commit to your passion,” he says. “Commit to your career, commit to your dream and put in the hours… you never know where it might lead you in the future.” 

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