2018 has been a huge year for Prateek Arora. Not only has he just been named Restaurant Personality of the Year in the Metro Peugeot Restaurant Awards, but last week he also earned the title of Outstanding Bartender at the prestigious Lewisham Awards.
We talk to Prateek about his lightening-speed rise to success in the New Zealand hospitality scene - and the role Aspire2 International played in helping him get there.
Congratulations on your recent accolades. How does it feel to be recognised as amongst the best in your profession?
I was shocked to be named Restaurant Personality of the Year in the Metro Peugeot Restaurant Awards. I felt so surprised – but also really proud. I still have a lot to learn but this win was a great way to get introduced to a lot more people within the industry. Winning Outstanding Bartender at the Lewisham Awards last week was another really big surprise.
What does it take to become a top award-winning barman?
A lot of hard work, consistency and organisation! Cassia is my first bar manager role and it is a lot of pressure – but in a good way. You have to stay on top of everything all the time. Challenges include creating different cocktails, keeping costs down, training staff, busy service. It’s all a challenge, but I love it. I get to work in an industry full of passionate, amazing people. There’s never been a plan B for me. It’s hospitality all the way.
Cassia has won a string of top awards. In 2016 and 2017 it took out the Supreme Award at the Metro Peugeot Restaurant Awards, and this year it was runner up in the Supreme Award and winner of the Best Smart-Dining category. Also this year, owners Sid and Chand Sahrawat were jointly named Restaurateur of the Year, and Sid was named Best Chef. How did you land a job as bar manager at such a celebrated restaurant?
I started working at Cassia three years ago as a part time food runner while I was studying hospitality management at Aspire2 International. From there I worked my way up to waiter, bar tender and now bar manager.
How has studying at Aspire2 International enhanced your career?
Before coming to Aspire2 I was working as a food runner at The Sugar Club, by Peter Gordon. I wanted to learn more about the industry, and fast. I I enrolled at Aspire2 International because it’s number one for hospitality training here. I particularly enjoyed the restaurant and café training and learning how to build strong customer relationships. The tutors at Aspire2 are fantastic, and you really feel like you are part of a family there. The skills and knowledge I gained during my diploma studies have really helped me launch my career in New Zealand.
What advice would you give to international students hoping to pursue hospitality careers here?
Learn from every single person you work with. Work for someone that always wants to go further. Read in your time off, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
What’s next for you?
In the short term my goal is to just keen learning as much as possible. Eventually though I plan to open my own bar.
And finally, can you share one of your favourite cocktails with us.
Right now, that would have to be a Saffron Gin Sour.
- Saffron Gin
- St Germain Elderflower
- Domaine de Canton
- Egg white
I love sours. I tasted the Saffron Gin randomly one day and immediately thought it would make a great twist on a Gin Sour. I always try to add a unique little twist to every classic cocktail I make.