Interview with Chef Monique Fiso of Hiakai restaurant in Wellington, New Zealand

From an after-school job as a sandwich hand at the tender age of 14, to the Michelin-starred kitchens of New York City, MONIQUE FISO always wanted to be a chef. She completed her studies at the Wellington Institute of Technology and while still still in school talked her way into her first fine dining job working for Chef Martin Bosley at the eponymous Martin Bosley at the Port Nicholson Yacht Club. Working full time while studying paid off and Monique finished top of her class. With a hunger for adventure and a desire for a challenge, she booked a ticket to New York City, home of some of the world’s best restaurants. After dropping her bags at a hostel, Monique headed for Michelin-starred PUBLIC restaurant and was immediately put to work. Over the next seven years, she honed her skills as a sous chef in some of New York City’s top kitchens: The Musket Room, PUBLIC Restaurant, A Voce, Saxon+Parole, Double Crown, to name a few. In 2016, she returned to New Zealand full time and began the pop-up dining series, Hiakai. Using traditional Māori cooking techniques and ingredients in combination with her Michelin-star training, Monique has taken Māori cuisine to a whole new level of sophistication and pushed it into the next chapter in its food story. Since arriving back in New Zealand, Monique has also become a regular contributor to MiNDFOOD Magazine, Māori Television, and Morena on TVNZ1. (Wellington, New Zealand)