Rhys Cattermoul’s career has taken him across the globe from New Zealand to London. As the new executive chef of NOBU Hong Kong, Cattermoul is bringing his considerable experience and an excitement for all the local flavors and produce to creating new dishes.
How did you get into food and cooking?
When I was a young boy I used to love cooking at home. When I left school, I started washing dishes for a bit of extra cash and got hooked on the exciting buzz of the kitchen. Originally I wanted to become an architect, but I decided to give the culinary world a try instead. From that day on, I was hooked on the adrenaline of the kitchen environment which was thrilling. I was astonished at how you can create food that is both delicious and beautiful.
What training did you do to become a chef?
I studied at Auckland Hotel Chefs Training school then moved to Queenstown where I trained in a small restaurant with a very seasonal menu and quality ingredients from around Central Otago. Next, I moved to London when I was just 19 years old to try my luck and had the opportunity to work in various restaurants ranging from French brasseries and modern European restaurants to Michelin star establishments. I also worked at numerous events and pop-up restaurant around the world.
Then one day I went to dine at NOBU and that was it! I immediately knew that I wanted to work here. I was taken by the flavors, the ambiance, and just how smooth everything went. During my eight years at NOBU Berkley Street, I was lucky enough to be guided by Chef Mark Edwards who shared his wealth of knowledge with me. He had a very strong influence on my cooking and taught me to keep things simple and never over-complicate a dish.
What do you think are the most important attributes for a chef?
I believe a chef should be curious about discovering new flavors and ingredients. There are so many different products out there to be discovered. For me, I live to eat. I think it is important that a chef dines out frequently and experiences all styles of cuisine. As a chef, you must continuously be learning and developing your skills. You need to be very creative and passionate about all things food and not afraid to try new things and push the limits. It takes a lot of dedication to be a chef, as it’s a demanding profession both physically and mentally.
You’re from Auckland originally, but grew up and started your career in Queenstown. How has New Zealand influenced the way you cook?
It’s been a while since I was in New Zealand to cook, but what I remember most was the great quality of the products, which were out of this world, such as the lamb and fish. My family lived right at the ocean’s edge. As a child, I would wake up early to go fishing, bring back the catch of the day and cook it for breakfast.
You were at NOBU Berkeley Street in London before coming to Hong Kong. What did you pick up from here?
I learned how important it is to have a strong team. The restaurant did over 400 covers per night, so we had a large brigade in the kitchen for such a big scale operation. For me, this was the most important aspect to achieving success. Without the support of my team, nothing would have been possible.
Working at NOBU has made me understand that I should never over-complicate a dish, but let the ingredients speak for themselves. I like using the freshest ingredients, and at NOBU we’re lucky to be able to use the best ingredients from Japan and beyond. Within the NOBU style, I have the flexibility to be creative.
Can we expect any influences from NOBU Berkeley Street at NOBU Hong Kong?
I have adapted a few of the innovative dishes I created in London for NOBU Berkley here in Hong Kong, which are now on our new Osusume menu. It will be interesting to see which ones become popular here. I will continue to create new seasonal dishes for our menu, so every time our guests return, they can try something new – in addition to their NOBU favorites.
Now that you’re in Hong Kong, will you be lacing any local ingredients into your dishes and menus?
Yes, of course. We’re lucky at NOBU that we have access to the best seasonal products – locally and from Japan and beyond. I am still learning about local taste preferences so that I can create new dishes with flavors that appeal to both our local patrons and international clients while ensuring that NOBU signature dishes are of the very highest standards.
What makes a good dish?
The key to a great dish is the product. If you can get fantastic ingredients then you can keep the dish very simple and let the natural flavors shine through. I also believe a dish should have different textures to create a sensory experience. In addition, it’s important that the dish is visually enticing.
You’ve recently taken over at NOBU Hong Kong. What do you hope to achieve here?
I want our cuisine to be consistently exceptional and of the highest quality. I also want to create innovative new dishes that excite our guests so they have a memorable experience every time they dine with us, whether they’re returning for their favourite NOBU classic dishes or to try something new.
What do you hope that guests take away from their experience at NOBU Hong Kong?
I hope that our guests will enjoy the food, as well as our ambiance and stunning harbour views so that they leave happy and want to return again and again. It’s the combination of great food, service and ambiance that make a fabulous dining experience.
What’s next for you?
If you had told me six months ago that I would be living and working in Hong Kong now, I would not have believed you! So I can’t really tell you now what’s next for me, since I have so recently relocated here from London. I find the food scene in Hong Kong absolutely incredible. It’s so diverse and international.
I am excited to immerse myself and experience all that Hong Kong and Asia have to offer.
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