Jiwon Do is the Executive Chef of Hippopotamus Restaurant and Cocktail Bar, QT Wellington’s award-winning signature French fine dining restaurant, as well as Hot Sauce, QT Wellington’s Asian-inspired restaurant and bar.
Under Do’s direction, Hippopotamus is a French-inspired fine dining restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, dinner and high tea, as well as the standout Chef’s degustation menu. All feature locally grown produce and sustainable, ethically sourced ingredients, woven expertly into unique and experimental flavour combinations and theatrical style of dining. Hippopotamus most recently earned Two Hats in the Cuisine Good Food Awards, after securing a coveted spot in Cuisine’s Top New Zealand Restaurants for 2019.
2019 marked Do’s first full year at the helm, returning to Hippopotamus in August 2018 after previously serving as senior sous chef for five years between 2008 and 2013. Do brings his own unique flair to the restaurant, as a recipient of culinary awards from New Zealand and Korea and a fifth-generation hospitality professional.
In 2020, Do expanded his role at QT Wellington to include Executive Chef of Hot Sauce, flexing his creativity in a new realm of casual dining. Born and raised in Korea, Chef Jiwon is coming back to his roots, boosting the Korean-influence on the Hot Sauce menu, including a sizzling bulgogi dish, a bulgogi burger and kimch-eese fries.
Even prior to his return to Hippopotamus, Do won multiple awards in culinary arts in New Zealand and Korea, even training as World Skills Olympic player in Culinary Arts, representing Korea, when he worked in Seoul for the Hilton Hotel Group.
Do’s career in the kitchen was a natural career path to take. “I come from a family of five generations working in hospitality, it is in my blood and I love every minute of it. This heritage and passion have influenced my philosophy as a chef and I believe that when dining out it should always be about enjoyment and making people feel happy. That’s what I strive for,” says Do.
He endeavours to rival his mum’s cooking and make people happy through food. Through reading, research and travel, he stays in the know with culinary trends. However, Do relies on classic French techniques and only experiments with flavour as trends come and go. Over the years, Do has broadened his interest in multiple cuisines resulting in an extraordinary spectrum of flavour profiles.
Do has a passion for local and sustainably-sourced ingredients. He is praised for experimenting with flavour combinations to create unexpected and extravagant delights. At Hippopotamus, he strives for his love of New Zealand and the foodie capital city of Wellington to come across in his dishes, by using fresh ingredients that are ethically sourced from trusted local partners.
Do’s stand-out menu items at Hippopotamus in 2019 included L’extraordinaire, a dessert made with Pāmu Deer Milk and Le Saumon, seared Ōra King salmon with pickled pikopiko among other seasonal ingredients.
Chef Do also let his creativity shine with a special creation for the Wellington on a Plate festival’s Burger Wellington programme. The Bourgeois Burger High Tea featured Zelati’s cookie s’mores and a pork cheek slider from Woody’s Free Range Farm.
Do continues to expertly lead his culinary team with a curiosity for new ingredients – all without sacrificing entertainment for diners or the authentic French flair that earned Hippopotamus its status as a Wellington institution.