Executive Chef, Raffles Istanbul, Turkey
Certificate in Professional Cookery*
Since graduating from AUT, Clinton Cooper’s career has taken him all over the world, he has earned multiple awards and worked alongside culinary greats like Heston Blumenthal.
“Food truly is an international language. Having left New Zealand in 2000, I’ve lived and worked in 15 cities, in 13 countries, with some of the most creative, passionate and dynamic people around,” says the AUT culinary arts alumnus who has worked for top hotels on four continents, as well as famous Michelin-starred restaurants.
“One of the things I love most about being a chef is that I get to cook every day with the best ingredients available. To be in a profession where you can see a guest’s happiness from tasting your food really is a magical moment.”
Highlights and achievements
Now working as the executive chef for Istanbul’s leading luxury hotel, Clinton is responsible for all aspects of food in the hotel.
“Becoming an executive chef for an international five-star hotel is one of the achievements I’m most proud of in my career so far. This had been a long-time goal for me and a key focus since I started my career as a chef.
“In this role, I’m responsible for anything from our Krug champagne dinner and the biscotti served with your coffee in the lobby lounge, to staff training and development, and the quality of the room service, mini bars, staff restaurant and banquets.”
Being able to inspire the next generation of chefs is his proudest achievement, Clinton says.
“In 2015, I started my own scholarship, the Cooper Culinary Excellence award. This is given out to the top graduating culinary student each year. This is something very personal to me as it allows me to give back to the New Zealand culinary scene and to an industry that has been very good to me.”
Becoming a chef
He has always had an interest in cooking, Clinton says.
“Some of my earliest childhood memories are of being in the kitchen, so the decision to become a chef seemed like a natural progression for me. That’s why I decided to come to AUT.
“What I loved about my time at AUT was that we had access to such great facilities, kitchens and equipment. But most of all, it was the calibre of the culinary arts lecturers and the support they gave us students that still resonates with me today.”
You have to be passionate about food if you want to succeed in this industry, he advises other students.
“Being a chef is not a job, it’s a lifestyle. A culinary career is a lot of hard work but it’s so rewarding. It opens up many doors and offers flexibility in terms of work environment, be it in a hotel, private yacht, café or hospital.”
*The Certificate in Professional Cookery is now incorporated into the Diploma in Culinary Arts.