What made you want to become a chef?
I first got interested in cooking out necessity. As both my parents worked when I was a kid it was my job to cook dinner a lot of the time. We had a copy of Allison Holst’s ‘Best Of’ in the drawer and I would attempt some of the recipes and watch cooking shows like Yan Can Cook and pick up tips. I liked the sense of accomplishment of making something which tasted good and fed the family.
As a chef, where do you get your inspiration from?
I take inspiration from other chefs I work with, have worked for or whose restaurant’s I eat at. It’s amazing what you can come up with when sitting down with a beer bouncing ideas back and forward with another passionate individual. I try my best to ensure my food is produce driven, so I look at what we have available from New Zealand and the Wellington region and use that as a starting point for what dishes I put on the menu. I would rather work with what I have locally and in season to create a dish.
What is your favourite dish to cook at the restaurant and why?
I don’t think there’s a particular dish I have as a favourite but I do like cooking dishes that challenge peoples’ pre-conceived ideas of what they don’t like. So, I enjoy using less popular secondary cuts and offal when possible and transforming them in to something special that people will enjoy. We do a 5-course chef’s tasting menu at dinner time and this is made off the cuff for each table that orders it. It’s a great opportunity for myself and my chefs to create something new and interesting.
What do you prefer to cook when you're off duty?
At home I like to keep it really simple. My favourite things to cook are thrown on the BBQ or something like a stuffed roast chicken, the less dishes the better. But as a chef I’m always happy if someone has taken the time to cook for me!
Tell us about your role in the NZ Chef’s National Team?
The next big event I have coming up would be with the NZ Chef’s National Team and competing in the Culinary Olympics in Stuttgart, Germany in 2020. I am a certified World Association of Chefs Society judge and hope to focus on judging next with the eventual goal of being able to judge at international events at the highest level.
Last supper meal?
KFC Ultimate Quarter Pack. They don’t do Mountain Dew or thick shakes now so maybe I’d have it with a Fanta.
What is your best chef's tip for someone to improve their cooking?
Checking your food to see if it’s cooked and not blindly following a recipe. Taste your food before you serve it and make sure you are always seasoning your food with salt (if it needs it!).
Do you have a favourite flavour combination?
I love truffle oil in my mashed potatoes and scrambled eggs. I know it’s heresy but pineapple and ham on a pizza and if you’re doing a burger it’s got to have beetroot and a fried egg.
What do you think sets New Zealand’s food scene apart from the rest of the world?
I think that for the most part our food scene is like the people - honest and down to earth. You can see that in the number of extremely high quality casual eateries that have opened up since the GFC [great financial crisis] and in Wellington especially where traditional fine dining has given way to more casual establishments, but with the same high-quality approach and attention to detail.
How would you explain your food philosophy?
I try my best to use good quality local food and treat it with respect. As chefs we have greater purchasing power and have the ability to influence what people eat. So I think it’s important to use the meat from animals that have been treated ethically, use food that is sustainable and as much as we can use food that doesn’t impact the environment. We also have to make sure that we aren’t wasting anything. The world already produces enough food to feed the population it’s just that we waste a hell of a lot of it.
Describe your approach to food in three words...
Honest. Humble. Deliberate.