New Zealand born Hayden McMillan has been on the pans from the age of 16, his formative years spent learning from world class chefs including Geoff Scott (Vinnie’s), Michael Meredith (Meredith’s) and Simon Wright (The French Café). At just 25, Hayden was appointed head chef at the award-winning fine diner TriBeCa in Auckland. His unique, innovative style saw TriBeCa listed in the Cuisine Top 50, an accolade he maintained until his departure in 2013.
From Auckland to the USA, where Hayden was headhunted to lead a 15-strong kitchen at The Waiheke Island Yacht Club, an upmarket New Zealand bistro established in the heart of San Francisco for the duration of the America’s Cup. This enormous project was overseen by celebrated restaurateur Tony Stewart (Clooney). A runaway success, the restaurant remained open for months after the Cup was won.
After relocating to Melbourne in 2014, Hayden was appointed head chef at the Astor Hotel in Carlton, winning one chef’s hat in The Age Good Food Guide Awards just three months after opening. But wanting to realise a lifelong dream, Hayden opened his own restaurant, Etta in early 2017. An upmarket bistro and wine bar, the menu featured more plant-based dishes than protein, using ingredients grown organically and farmed sustainably. Within a few short months, Etta had established itself as one of the most exciting new eateries in Victoria.
It was whilst at Etta that Hayden met Julie Clark of Floriditas, which led to a collaborative dinner series between their two restaurants for the 2018 Visa Welly On A Plate festival. Finding common ground in their philosophies on food, and with Hayden and his young family responding to the call of home, the two have now joined forces, with Hayden and his wife coming on board as part-owners of Floriditas in Wellington, NZ.