New Zealand native and Award Winning Chef Gwithyen Thomas discovered his passion for cooking at the age of sixteen, when he left school to pursue his career as a chef. His hard work and perseverance paid off, as by the age of twenty, he was running three kitchens in Auckland’s five star hotel, Stamford Plaza. In 2009, Gwithyen showcased his venison dish at the official New Zealand Culinary Fare and became New Zealand’s silver medalist for food and wine matching. That same year, Gwithyen met his wife, Justine, while cooking for her and her family; they were guests at the Stamford Plaza hotel. In 2011, Gwithyen married Justine, and moved to the United States.


In late 2014, at the age of 25, he and his wife opened their first fine dining restaurant, Aroha, in Westlake Village, California. Since opening, Gwithyen has has the incredible joy of introducing the organic, fresh, and unique cooking techniques and flavors from New Zealand. He has had the honor of cooking for incredible talents including celebrity chef Bobby Flay at the 2014 Breeder’s Cup, Grammy Award winning artists Lorde and Serj Tankian, and multiple consulate generals.


Aroha quickly became a favorite among locals and out of state visitors, garnering awards from Wine Spectator, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and local newspapers. After only a year, Aroha was voted a community favorite in the Ventura County Star’s Readers Choice Awards for Romantic Dining. In the late fall of 2018, due to the Woolsey Fire, Gwithyen and Justine closed the doors to Aroha Restaurant.

Gwithyen continues to be passionate about bringing New Zealand products into the United States and currently works for New Zealand brands GreenMount Foods and Angus Pure to help them further their success in the US market.


Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for Aroha Restaurant

2018 Wine Spectator

Favorite Seafood  Restaurant in East Ventura County: Aroha Restaurant

2017, 2018 Ventura County Star Reader's Choice Awards

Favorite Business Lunch Restaurant in East Ventura County: Aroha Restaurant

2016 Ventura County Star Reader's Choice Awards

Favorite Romantic Dining Restaurant in East Ventura County: Aroha Restaurant

2016, 2018 Ventura County Star Reader's Choice Awards

Silver Medal: Open Grade, Wine & Food Matching

New Zealand Culinary Fare, 2009

Perfect Food & Wine Match

Excellence in Corbons, 2007

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