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Josh Emett makes it in the Big Apple

Latest food profile: An in-depth interview with Josh Emett, chef of Gordon Ramsay at the London, New York, by MiNDFOOD.

Josh Emett makes it in the Big Apple

New Zealand-born Josh Emett is at the top of his game as a chef at Gordon Ramsay’s New York restaurant.

Brought up on a farm in Hamilton, Josh Emett discovered his passion for cooking when he was a child, more out of necessity than anything.

“My family spent so much of their time working on the farm, so if I didn’t cook, I didn’t eat,” he says.

Emett later followed the path of many Kiwi school leavers, training as a chef at Waikato Polytechnic and working in Auckland.

He worked in London for a few years as a means to fund his travelling and then moved to Australia, working in Est Est Est restaurant in Melbourne for three years, which he describes as fantastic.

“For the first time, the job was very much about the cooking,” Emett says. “It was probably where it all began for me. Long hours and serious cooking were all I was focused on.”

Emett left Australia in 1999 and lived it up, working as a chef on yachts in the south of France.

“The yachts were great but I felt lazy. I was earning good money, however, I didn’t feel I was achieving anything,” he says.

In 2000 Emett headed back to London. “I ended up working for Gordon Ramsay at his restaurant in Chelsea. He ran a horribly hard kitchen – very stressful, very long hours – but it was exactly where I wanted to be,” he says.

Emett kept his head down and worked his way up the ranks in the kitchen very quickly. In his first year, the restaurant was awarded three Michelin stars, making it the only three-star restaurant in London.

Emett helped launch Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s. “It was a difficult thing because it’s a large hotel restaurant,” he says.

“It was all about stripping a meal down to its bare basics while still making it interesting.”

Accepting an offer he couldn’t refuse, Emett then took the position of head chef at London’s newly re-opened Savoy Grill in 2003, and in 2004 his efforts and skill were acknowledged with the restaurant’s first Michelin star.

In 2006 Emett relocated to New York to open Gordon Ramsay’s three venues in the London NYC hotel: the fine-dining restaurant Gordon Ramsay at the London; the London Bar; and the more casual Maze.

“The produce in New York is amazing,” Emett says. “It’s a big country and the seasons are happening simultaneously, so you can get great ingredients. The main difference between London and New York is the food needs to be lighter [in New York]; no one wants a heavy sauce.

“I’m constantly working on new dishes. There’s not a day when I don’t think about them. Though I’m happy living in New York, I’m going to help set up Gordon’s restaurant in Los Angeles, which we hope will open in June.

“The restaurants in New York are fabulous. There’s a huge middle ground here – about 15,000 restaurants where you can eat really well. As in New Zealand, they’re a little more casual about food. I try to visit New Zealand at least once a year. It’s a must to get back and see my parents.”

The London NYC hotel is at 151 West 54th Street, New York.

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