Nick Blake
Nick Blake Warren Lynam

Nick a real go-getter


LIFE has never been too short for Nick Blake.

In just seven years, the self-confessed "doer" has gone from washing dishes to running an international environmental portfolio, to becoming a highly successful apprentice chef.

Now, the 27-year-old has been named a finalist in the Fonterra Foodservice Proud to be a Chef competition and will join a group of Australia's best apprentice chefs in a three-day master class in Melbourne this week.

Mr Blake's cooking success has become an inspiration among the restaurant world, a journey he proudly outlines on his website

He said the website was designed to inspire other young people to chase their career goals.

Growing up in Fiji, Mr Blake's first interest was wildlife and environmental science.

He moved to New Zealand in 2003 to study a diploma of environmental management, which he followed up with a Bachelor of Environmental Science.

"I graduated and started searching for work straight away, but no one was interested in giving me a job because I did not have any experience," he said.

"I wanted to do basic field work on the islands surveying birds and wildlife, but it was basically impossible to get a job in that field."

A few months into the job hunt, Mr Blake had to farewell his dreams and "bit the bullet".

He began washing dishes at a Langham Hotel kitchen instead.

"I went for an interview in a suit because I didn't know what a dishy's job was," he said.

"I pretty much got there and the chef stood me next to a steamy, hot dishwasher, handed me some gloves and said, 'get into it'."

Six months later, he said he could not ignore his environmental passions any longer. He spent one month compiling a report into how the hotel chain could improve its sustainable work habits, starting with the dishwasher.

"I noticed that the kitchen was not working very efficiently. I thought for this five-star hotel, they could be doing a lot of things better, environmentally," he said.

"I handed the report to the managing director who had just returned from a company conference where environment and sustainability was one of the key topics discussed."

In the space of a week, Mr Blake went from standing in front of a pile of dirty dishes to the hotel's environmental project manager.

He turned the hotel's management around, winning countless environment awards, including a national green ribbon.

The 2008 new year was looking promising for the then 23-year-old, taking on an international job offer as the global environmental officer in Hong Kong.

"It was great working in Hong Kong, but I was getting bored and so I decided to leave and move to the Sunshine Coast," he said.

With his career on hold, Mr Blake went back to washing dishes at The Boat Shed in Cotton Tree.

"I just wanted to do something that truly made me happy. I had to think long and hard about what that was and start at the bottom once again," he said.

"I was still young and I still had the will to do something that I really wanted to do."

Six months after his new life began, Mr Blake was offered the job of an apprentice chef, which he eagerly accepted.

"I thought, if I'm going to be a chef, I better be bloody good at it," he said.

Mr Blake just ticked over his first year last week and has already laid out his goals for the remaining two years of his apprenticeship.

He started a website, which now has 30,000 hits, to encourage others to follow their dreams.

Famous chef Gordon Ramsay has even taken a liking to Mr Blake, following his progress on Twitter.

"I am just trying to network and push myself further and build a profile for myself," he said.