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Kiwi chef returns to NZ for Welly icon, Floriditas

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Celebrated Melbourne-based Kiwi chef, Hayden McMillan, is making Wellington his new home, and bringing his culinary talents to one of the capital’s most beloved eateries, Floriditas, in an exciting new partnership set to further enhance Wellington’s vibrant dining scene.

The relationship between Hayden – most recently, the owner and head chef of highly acclaimed EastBrunswick eatery, Etta – and Floriditas, was born out of a Visa Wellington On a Plate chef collaboration in 2018, when he paired with the eatery for a four-night Etta takeover.

The owners of Etta and Floriditas have remained firm friends ever since, and it was due to that friendship and symbiotic approach to food, which drove Floriditas owners, Julie Clark and James Pedersen, to “put forward an audacious plan to partner with us” late last year.

After seven years working in the upper echelons of Melbourne’s culinary scene, Hayden and his wife, Dominique, who also managed Melbourne eateries, Cutler & Co. and Marion, are looking forward to settling in. “Our philosophies align very well. There is nothing broken at Floriditas, so we really want to go in and push it forward. We’ll bring a fresh perspective, whilst continuing what Julie and James have done for the last 15 years,” says McMillan.

Dominique, who will take up the role as Floriditas front-of-house, says she and Hayden now consider themselves caretakers of a Wellington culinary icon. “Wellington diners are really loyal, and we want to be able to be giving back to the local scene in 10-15 years, and really preserve Floriditas as a Wellington icon,” she says.

Dominique says the 2018 Visa Wellington On a Plate collaboration proved all parties were a great match.

“After we left Wellington, Hayden said, ‘I don’t think that’s the last time we’ll work with James and Julie’. I had the same feeling. Things were ticking along fine in Melbourne, we had no plans to move home, but we just had that gut instinct – and now here we are!” she says.

Julie says the partnership with Hayden and Dominique will give Floriditas another lease of life and the ability to evolve and propel itself into the future.

“I’m really excited about the knowledge and skill Hayden and Dom both bring. Hayden’s food has always excited me and I know I’m going to learn heaps. It’s about the fun and sparking of new ideas,” she says.

Hayden previously worked at some of Auckland’s top restaurants, including The French Café, Vinnies and Meredith’s, TriBeCa and Waiheke Island Yacht Club, as well as earning one hat as head chef at The Roving Marrow in Melbourne’s Astor Hotel.

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