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Hai Son Nguyen (Jackie)


Hai Son Nguyen (Jackie) | Success Story NZMA

I’m learning a huge amount about the industry studying at NZMA and through my work as a bartender at Eden Park and Alexandra Park. It’s very different from working in Asia!

Did you have any hospitality experience before enrolling at NZMA?

Yes! I have a Hospitality & Tourism Degree from Malaysia and spent 18 months working as a tour guide in resorts in Indonesia. I also have a Culinary Diploma from Singapore and worked as a bartender and waiter at Singapore’s luxury five-star hotel, the Marina Bay Sands. I decided to come to New Zealand and study at NZMA so that I could gain some New Zealand-recognised industry qualifications and further develop my hospitality career on an international level. New Zealand has a very strong hospitality and tourism industry so it was an obvious place to choose.

You’ve recently competed in New Zealand’s biggest hospitality competition, the NZChefs National Salon. How did it go?

It was great! I competed in the Innovative Cocktail event and won a gold medal for my ‘Streets of Da Nang’ cocktail. I created this drink as a reminder of my hometown Da Nang, in Vietnam. It was inspired by my all-time favourite food when I was a child, Bun Bo, or spicy beef noodle.  My auntie has a restaurant in Da Nang and I used to go there every morning and eat her Bun Bo. I decided to see if I could get the flavours of this dish to translate into a cocktail, and after two weeks of serious trial and error, my tutor Dan and I came up with my award –winning drink. The judges were very surprised when I told them what was in it. It’s got beef stock, chilli sauce, fish sauce bitters, coriander, lemon grass, kaffir lime, grapefruit, vodka and sherry. It’s pretty weird! It took a lot of work finding the right balance of flavours between sweet and sour, bitter and spicy, but eventually Dan and I nailed it. Five out of the six judges loved it, but the other one was not a fan. He did however admit that it was very creative, and that’s a big part of what they are looking for in Innovative Cocktails!

How does the hospitality industry in New Zealand differ from the industry in Asia?

I’m learning a huge amount about the industry studying at NZMA and through my work as a bartender at Eden Park and Alexandra Park.  It’s very different from working in Asia, and I’ve had to learn all the different policies around things like alcohol and host responsibility. It’s really good because it’s rounding out my knowledge and experience. From here I’m just going to keep building on it as I move into my Level 6 studies at NZMA and continue to gain industry work experience. Eventually I’ll work my way up to bar manager. I definitely think my future lies in hospitality!

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