Customers' allergies make menu planning difficult

Photo by David Bruce.
Photo by David Bruce.
Photo by Alex Sims.
Photo by Alex Sims.

Darren Watson
Portside Restaurant and Bar
Oamaru Harbour.

Why and how did you become a chef?

I was employed at 14 years old as a kitchen hand at the Galleon Restaurant. When I was 16, I was approached by the manager and the head chef to take on an apprenticeship. I accepted as I had a passion for food and what can be achieved. Also the endless possibilities that can be done with food. I trained in Dunedin and was qualified by the age of 19.

Biggest professional challenge?

That would have to be the 2000 Sydney Olympics where I was working at the velodrome and we had to cater for the athletes, staff and, over the five days of cycling, about 5000 spectators daily. There were a lot of chefs, though.

Favourite ingredient?

The egg for the versatility that it has - poaching, boiling, frying, scrambling, baking, foams, binding, meringues, enriching sauces etc.

Best cooking tip?

It's barbecue season, so when cooking steak, cook it from room temperature to prevent the meat from tensing up when it hits the hot grill. Putting a cold steak on a hot grill will cause the muscle to contract.

What type of food do you like to eat?

That's a tricky question because I have lots of favourites but probably my favourite would be beef fillet, rib-eye, lamb, pork.

Who cooks at home?

Most of the time I'm at work, but on my day off I try to get inspired occasionally. But if it's one of those days, I usually make the excuse that the lawns need mowed or something.

Favourite meal?

My all time favourite meal would be fillet steak with garlic buttered prawns, homemade coleslaw, fried eggs and chunky chips.

Favourite kitchen gadget?

The mandoline for all the slices and cuts you can do - julienne, slicing, jardiniere, trellis and consistent cuts all the time.

How have peoples' tastes changed?

Food has come a long way. We usually go through phases of foods that seem to be in demand. Today people seem to be more health conscious about what's on their plates - also catering for gluten-free and dairy-free seems to be on the rise which means when we design menus we have adjust to people's allergies. Sometimes it's hard because they vary so much.

Gordon or Jamie?

Definitely Gordon. He's an amazing chef and I can't stand Jamie's lisp.

Seafood fettucine

Seafood fettucine (2 servings)

Boil a pot of salted water with a little oil and cook a packet of fettucine pasta for about 7 to 8 minutes until soft. Drain once cooked and set aside

In the meantime

1 small onion diced finely garlic clove diced finelya little oilHeat oil, sweat onion and garlic until soft.

Add cup white wine and reduce by half, then pour 2 cups of cream into the pan and on a moderate heat bring to the boil.

Reduce heat.

Gather your favourite seafoods, e.g. whole mussels, clams, shrimps, prawns, salmon, fish fillets (cut) or smoked fish for an extra depth to the dish.

Add the seafoods to the pan and gently increase the heat for about 1 to 2 minutes.

Incorporate the fettucine and allow the pan to gently boil for a further 4 to 5 minutes to finish cooking the seafood and thicken the cream.

Season with a little salt and pepper to taste.

Remove from the heat and optionally you could mix in some chopped herbs such as parsley or fennel. Serve with a lemon wedge and crusty bread for dipping.

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