“Sen” is the national flower of Vietnam, and means “lotus” in English, but for the restaurant named SEN in Mount Eden, it could stand for Sensational Eating Now.
Nga Thanh Nguyen, preferred name Bo, studied at NZMA around 2009/2010 in Hospitality Management. He learnt his hands-on skills through the NZMA Hospitality management programme Levels 4 and 5.
His career journey started in various front of house roles, to a Barista in a Café where he met his current business partners. Together they opened SEN in September 2015, and it’s become a well-known and reviewed restaurant in Mount Eden.
SEN at full capacity can hold 138 diners, with an atmospheric dining loft area upstairs, and bar and open kitchen with surrounding tables downstairs.
The building is unique on Normanby Street, with a distinct exterior from being part of the original industrial complex established by the Colonial Ammunition Company (C.A.C.) in the mid 1880s as the earliest amunitions factory in Australasia.
Built from locally quarried volcanic bluestone it was commenced in 1920 and completed 1922. The C.A.C. vacated the site in the 1980s and it was used as a demolition company storage facility, before surviving as a car panel and paint workshop.
Signature dishes are SEN’s Wok Seared “Shakin” Beef and Ha Noi Grilled Pork. Both dishes have distinct flavours and are popular with the locals.
Needing new staff, Bo recently contacted NZMA to find a part-time bar operator. Through NZMA’s Careers Team Lead, Sam Rasheed-Hiscoke, a search was undertaken and Jackie (Son Hai) was appointed.
Bo says, “Sometimes all a student needs is a foot in the door. Jackie ticked all the boxes - great skills, fantastic attitude and a fun personality. He was also a sharp dresser!”
Jackie says he had worked in Singapore and Malaysia before he decided to come to New Zealand for his future career and life. He continues, “NZMA has helped me to get the skills I need to apply for better jobs. I am finishing off my Level 6 hospitality management programme, and now I have a great part-time job at SEN as a bartender”.
Jackie works four nights a week in the evening which works in perfectly with his studies. Jackie adds, “The NZMA Careers team has been so helpful, and Sam has helped me with my CV, and interview skills so I can do a really good interview. My goal now is to become a manager of a restaurant and hotel”.
Sam Rasheed-Hiscoke said, “This is what our work is all about, pathways to an exciting job. There was such a natural fit here with Bo and Jackie, and we’re thrilled it’s all working beautifully.”