The judges were captivated by The Thinking Chef in the NZChefs National Salon culinary contest last month.
The margarine sculpture by Pakuranga resident Max Wang, who comes from China and is studying at NZ Management Academies (NZMA), won gold and was awarded best in show in the category he competes in.
Standing 1.2 metres tall and weighing 140kgs, The Thinking Chef sculpture shows a cook with an Asian face sitting on a stack of pots, wearing a chef's hat, and putting his hands under the chin, contemplating.
"I've spent long hours on it," says Wang, a newcomer to the world of food sculpting.
"Thanks to my tutor [Ganesh Khedekar] from whom I learnt how to deal with margarine, and he also offered me valuable advice on the idea behind this statue."
Wang explains his masterpiece was inspired by Auguste Rodin's The Thinker.
"I made the muscles of the chef really big to showcase 'the power of the chef', which was the theme of the sculpture competition," says Wang.
"Being a chef is not easy. You need a lot of strength to handle the hard work in the kitchen."
In the front of the sculpture, there are two huge hands busy cooking, one using a pair of chopsticks to hold noodles, the other adding some sauce to the dish.
"I decided to let him use chopsticks, because I wanted to make the sculpturing more complicated and challenging," says Wang.
"I specially gave the chef Crocs chef shoes to express that no matter how powerful a chef can be, he or she still needs to obey the kitchen rules."
Three other NZMA students of Pakuranga also won gold medals in the national competition.
Deepak Billa comes from India and won gold and best in show in the innovative café salad competition; Qing Dong claimed first place for live dessert; and Michael Long collected gold for his Maori-inspired seafood dish.
"We're very proud of them," says Jasbir Kaur, NZMA's head of culinary arts.
"All of them were working really hard. They are motivated and energised to participate in future competitions."