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Norka Mella Munoz

Norka Mella Munoz

Chef at Wharekauhau Country Estate

Norka Mella Munoz grew up in Santiago, Chile and has fond memories of her mum’s delicious cooking. She says they rarely dined out at restaurants as a family as her mum was such a fabulous cook always creating delicious fresh food for the family. Before Norka finished school, she read a local newspaper article proclaiming cooking to be a great career with a bright future. With a desire to also travel she realised that being a chef would be a great way to see the world. Her parents, especially her Dad, didn’t quite agree as it was such a male dominated industry, however Norka enrolled in chef school and studied for three years while also working at various catering jobs and events in Santiago.

She then undertook a six-month apprenticeship in a five-star hotel where she had the opportunity to work with several renowned chefs from France and Italy. During this time, she was able to fine tune her skills and cooking techniques before moving on to work in Patagonia for three years. During this time Norka won various gold culinary awards working for hotels such as the Intercontinental, Las Torres del Paine and the Explora Patagonia and San Pedro de Atacama.

In 2002 Norka was enticed to move to New Zealand after reading a newspaper article promoting New Zealand as a great destination for a working holiday. With the intention of working here for only one year, she set off without being able to speak English but with the knowledge that food being a universal language would be enough to get herself a job.

Norka started her New Zealand journey in the urban centre of Auckland, however, was quickly drawn to the Hawkes Bay where delicious fresh produce was abundant – a true ‘food-basket’ region. In 2016 the opportunity arose to join the team at Mangapapa boutique lodge. A few years later Norka took the reins as the Executive Chef for Kinloch Manor and Treetops Luxury Lodge, again two properties well respected for their localised culinary programmes, before joining the Wharekauhau family midway through 2022

Norka’s deep-set passion for championing local, and letting the produce speak for itself has seen recognised as an Ora King Salmon Ambassador, as well as a New Zealand Beef & Lamb Ambassador. Wharekauhau Country Estate General Manager, Richard Rooney, will often recall the interview process with Norka and her excitement to join them was centred around the fact she has a dedicated gardener and forager in her team here, and the ability to work in a Relais & Chateaux environment.

Language spoken : English


Photo credit : Wharekauhau Country Estate - Relais & Châteaux