Now working for Peter Gordon and Alastair Carruthers at Homeland, Petra von Minden spent over 17 years working in various roles for Nobu, the Michelin rated restaurant group of Japanese Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, and Robert De Niro.
Originally from Wellington, Petra travelled to Europe with a lot of enthusiasm and not much experience. After working in a café in London, one of her friends offered her work at the Nobu, considered the hottest place in town. Frequented by celebrities and models, who liked the idea of raw fish and low calories, Nobu would serve over 350 guests each night.
Speaking to our student at NZSFW, Petra commented: ‘I felt that I did not have the skills to work at that level but realised that so often Kiwis sell themselves short. And I started and learnt fast.’
‘Nobu-san always believed in training people well. For the Front of House, you would start as a runner and begin to learn about the cuisine along with the steps of service. Everything on a plate was there for a reason. You needed to know about the ingredients, raw fish, allergies, chillies.
'The menu was a journey and our goal was to make a special experience for our guests in a fast-paced restaurant,’ says Petra.
Nobu opened in New York in 1994, London in 1997. As the company expanded Petra worked at a number of restaurants including London Berkeley which opened in 2005, returned to be closer to home and worked at Nobu Melbourne when it opened in 2007. Petra then returned to UK holding various roles including a period organising the opening of Nobu Marbella in Spain.
At this time, Nobu Group started to expand into hotels: modern cool luxury and minimal Japanese tradition into the concept of a lifestyle hotel.
‘Overseas Kiwis have a reputation for having a positive personality along with a respected work ethic which is particularly valued in UK,’ says Petra.
‘The Nobu team were drawn from all over the globe. They worked hard. But there was always a sense of celebration at the end of the shift and joy about what we had achieved. This energised the team and made us enjoy our work and keep going’.
Petra is adamant that she had no idea that this career pathway existed when she started in UK but all these years later hospitality is what she loves and wants to encourage others to be adventurous in their career choices.