Universal College of Learning-trained Dwayne Cheer is literally the world’s top chef.

At.mosphere Burj Khalifa
At.mosphere Burj Khalifa

He is Executive Chef at the exclusive ‘At.mosphere’ restaurant in Dubai, the highest restaurant in the world, 422 metres above the earth on the 122nd floor of the Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world.

Now preparing food for the rich and famous, including royalty, Dwayne started his career in a fish and chip shop in Waitarere Beach, south of Foxton. He was born in Upper Hutt and grew up on a farm in Dannevirke before moving to Waitarere Beach and attending Horowhenua College.

He was trained at UCOL, graduating in 1998 with a Certificate in Catering. His advice to today’s UCOL students looking for stellar careers as chefs: “Believe in yourself and work harder than the guy or girl next to you. Don’t move around too quickly because real knowledge is gained through time and hard work.”

At At.mosphere, Dwayne’s responsibilities include creating menus and leading a team of 24 chefs. Menus change four times a year and are likely to include Wagyu beef, grain fed New Zealand beef, New Zealand lamb chops (cooked with Moroccan spices), foie gras and caviar, Maine lobster, New Zealand saffron, and hokey pokey ice cream. Dwayne specialises in modern eclectic cuisine with flavours of the Riviera.

At.mosphere covers an area of 1,030 square metres and offers two dining options; lounge and grill. It can host more than 210 guests and includes private dining rooms and display cooking stations.

Dwayne says running a restaurant at the top of the world’s highest building brings its challenges. “Logistics are tough and we need to be very organised. I avoid too many trips in the elevator, a 57-second ride up 442 metres. One day I came up five times after which you feel a bit dizzy. You only want to come up twice.”

Dwayne actively works to promote New Zealand food in Dubai. Last Sunday (29 January) he cooked a barbeque and talked about New Zealand products at a function to help raise the profile of the New Zealand Consulate in Dubai.

Following his own advice to students, Dwayne worked hard to achieve his current status as a chef in Dubai. After graduating from UCOL, he headed to Wellington, becoming Commis Chef at Kimble Bents restaurant, and Sous Chef at Brasserie Cafe Menton and then at Te Papa’s ICON restaurant, working with Adam Newell and Peter Thornley. Moving to Sydney in 2000, he spent two years at Mediterranean and Italian influenced Orso Bayside Restaurant.

Arriving in London in 2002, he was offered a position at 192 Restaurant in Notting Hill (British and French cuisine), cooking for the likes of U2’s Bono and The Spice Girls, before being invited to join Michelin starred The Greenhouse restaurant, awarded best British restaurant in 2004 by the Square Meal magazine. Dwayne worked at The Greenhouse for two years, becoming Executive Sous Chef in his first year. He also spent time in St Tropez as a private chef.

In 2006, he started a “whirlwind five years”, accepting a position in Dubai, at the five star One and Only Royal Mirage Hotel, as Chef de Cuisine. He then opened the Flagship Hotel of ‘The Address’ Hotels and Resorts, and became Executive Chef at the five star The Address Dubai Mall Hotel before tackling the new At.mosphere restaurant in 2011, and becoming its Executive Chef.