Chetan Pangam – One80°, Wellington

Chetan Pangam, executive chef at One80°, has long since mastered the Beef Wellington and bombe Alaska. However, his favourite dish is, and will always remain, his mum’s fish curry with some plain rice. “I always remember my mum and grandmother cooking and I was very much influenced by them to get in the kitchen from a very young age. My mum’s cooking always inspired me to be a chef. Also, my dad was in the police force and I wanted to do something entirely different to him.”

Pangam hails from the Indian coast near Goa, and grew up with an abundance of fresh seafood – mackerel fish pickle from the coastal region is one of his all-time favourites. His culinary journey has taken him from the Oberoi Hotel in Bangalore and the Radisson Hotel New Delhi, down to Heritage Hotel Auckland and now to Copthorne Hotel Oriental Bay Wellington, where he is now executive chef.

Being executive chef at a hotel comes with its unique set of challenges. There is a varied clientele and One80° caters from breakfasts, functions, morning and afternoon teas, high teas, set menus, a la carte, buffets, degustation – “These can all happen at the same time on the same day.” The kitchen is always operating at a high pace, running of a staff of sixteen all of whom have varied backgrounds.

While Pangam lists his favourite ingredient simply as ‘salt’, he has recently been working fermented black garlic into his cooking. His dishes and menus are generally dictated by what is available locally and in season. “The first rule for me is to start with the best quality produce,” he explained. “I make sure the team is well trained and takes good care and respects the ingredients.

Being careful, taking time and being willing to wait are all key for Pangam, with his favoured cooking technique being slow braising or slow cooking, and is currently experimenting with fermentation and pickling. “Good things come to those who are patient, as I was once told at a very young age,” he said.

Pangam recently travelled to Australia to take part in the Noosa Food and Wine Festival, where he conducted a series of masterclasses, as well as side trips to Sydney and Melbourne. This food safari is all part of his role as 2016/2017 Ōra King Salmon ambassador. One80° is also currently in the planning stages of an upgrade, with a new concept and menus due to be established in the coming months.

“I want to carry on with what I’m doing,” Pangam explained. “Cook good food and make people happy, hopefully have my own signature restaurant and make sure my family and kids are proud of me.”