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Hannes Bareiter can always look on the bright side.
He may have been on the verge of opening a new restaurant when lockdown came into force, but instead of dwelling on the might-have-beens, he is getting stuck into his garden at home.
"I never have enough time to do stuff around here, so it’s quite nice to have some time off and do some things."
The German chef is very aware the timing could have been worse — he could have just opened his new venture, Titi at St Clair.
"It would have been a lot harder. It’s definitely not been easy, but we’ll get there."
Bareiter is known to Dunedin diners as the chef behind the popular degustation menus at Glenfalloch Garden and Restaurant on Otago Peninsula.
His specialty is creating dishes based on seasonal produce and, as a result, diners don’t get a menu, just an urging to trust the chef.
It is a concept that was new to Dunedin when he first started but has since gained a loyal following and some top ratings on social media.
The path to his success began in Germany after he left school aged 15.
"I wasn’t great at school so, since I had nothing else to do, my parents pushed me into hospitality school."
He started in hotel management, but after a few days in a kitchen he was hooked. An apprenticeship in a small restaurant was the next step.
"I worked very long hours. It was very crazy times."
That led to travel and working in major five-star hotel chains, but it was also where he lost his passion for cooking.
"It put me off ... you were just opening a packet, everything was cut up, there was no association with where it came from. You only bought the cut you wanted; there was no nose to tail."
A suggestion that he visit New Zealand appealed and he accepted a job as executive chef at Raetihi Lodge in Kenepuru Sound, Marlborough, where the produce, meat and seafood are sourced from the hills and ocean that surround the lodge.
"We were in touch with nature. You could see where the food came from."
With his passion for food reignited, he returned to Germany to complete his master’s degree in culinary arts and kitchen management.
Bareiter then returned to New Zealand for another summer before returning to Europe, where he
helped open a restaurant for a Michelin-starred chef in Munich, which is where he met his partner, Melanie Hartman.
"We were working seven days a week with no time off."
Fed up with the long hours, they decided to leave it all behind and move to New Zealand.
Working in the same industry makes it a lot easier, Bareiter says.
"We understand each other. She knows what my food’s going to be like before she tastes it. We watch out for each other and have a better understanding. Often in restaurants, front of house and the kitchen don’t work well together. That’s not the case for us."
When they arrived in New Zealand, they accepted work at the five-star Bay of Many Coves Luxury Lodge in Queen Charlotte Sound so Bareiter could indulge his passion for fresh produce.
While they home-schooled their eldest daughter, it became too hard when she became a teenager and they had their second daughter.
"It was hard living in the Sounds with boat access only."
They decided to move and chose Dunedin because of its schools and proximity
to wildlife, beaches and the mountains.
Bareiter started at the then newly-opened Distinction Hotel restaurant in the Old Post Office before moving to Glenfalloch to run the kitchen.
His degustation menu approach confused — and even scared — some diners, he says. It meant people often chose the least number of courses in a degustation menu in the beginning in case they did not like something.
"It’s about challenging guests to try new things and trust us in the way we cook our fish or vegetables.
"If you’d never order Brussels sprouts because you don’t like the taste, but you give them a go and turn around and tell me you’d order that again, I’m happy.
"It’s a great concept to try new things and can make it more exciting for diners. Most dishes have a surprise element, which makes it entertaining."
After discussions broke down with the Otago Peninsula Trust, Glenfalloch Restaurants’ owner, Bareiter and Hartman made the decision to move on.
While they love the peninsula, they decided the challenges it brought for a hospitality business meant it made sense to move their restaurant into town.
Last year they bought a house just down the road from the Airbnb they stayed in when they first visited.
There were also other variables such as diners not drinking much as they had to drive or needing staff to have their own transport.
After much discussion and debate, they chose the home of the former Pier 24 restaurant in St Clair. It is a spot Bareiter had always liked.
"It’s such a nice spot and I remember eating there when Greg [Piner] ran it and we had some amazing meals there. Good memories."
He believed its location was perfect as a lot of staff live in the area.
"They’ll be able to walk to work."
The lockdown announcement came after a major effort to move out of Glenfalloch, and has resulted in Bareiter taking time out in his garden.
"Finally, the chickens are getting an improved house."
The couple had planned to open the restaurant, which he has renamed Titi, with a special wild foods dinner during the Wild Dunedin Festival this month but that plan has been put on hold.
Like his Glenfalloch endeavours, Titi will also feature his fresh produce and degustation menus.
He admits it is not an easy approach to cooking as it requires the chef to put all his skills to the test and come up with new dishes daily.
"We can go through a few chefs. They like the idea, but the work ... it’s a lot of work to make dishes from scratch and have consistency as produce changes. You have to improvise and make the best out of things — that’s the joy of cooking for me. It’s good fun."
chose the name Titi because of its water associations, that muttonbirds nest in the hills around St Clair and because of the Maori legend behind them.
"We liked the idea that they travel the world, but always come back to their birthplace. The name really resonated."
The aim is to continue to offer food picked locally in the morning and on a plate that afternoon or evening.
"The whole concept only works if people don’t have a choice. You have to give them a menu and they have to eat what you give them or you have to start refrigerating or freezing food."
Staff will make all the food
in-house from fresh ingredients and the plan is to offer two evening versions of the degustation menus — one protein-based and the other plant-based. How many courses is yet to be decided.
With the extra time due to the lockdown, he is still working out what they will offer at lunchtimes but is working on a concept that will allow people to have a simple, fresh dish in a lunch break for a good price.
Before lockdown, they were busy renovating with newly-finished floors, black paint and natural wood featuring prominently.
The kitchen has been refurbished and his favourite appliance has arrived — an Italian gelato machine.
"It’s just waiting to be installed. It’s always been my passion but I’ve never had the money to invest in a proper machine. I can’t wait to try it out."
Vanilla cod with Jerusalem artichoke, apple and fennel en papillote
Prep time 30 minutes
Cook time 30 minutes
4 pieces blue cod, ling, gurnard or butterfish (180g each)
1 vanilla bean
200g (4 each) Jerusalem artichoke
1 medium onion
2 fennel bulbs
1 granny smith apple
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp curry powder
½ tsp cumin
salt and pepper
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 egg, white only
4 squares of baking paper
30cm x 30cm
Heat oven to 180degC.
Dry the fish fillets with paper towel. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Melt butter on low heat in a small pot, cut vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds. Add bean and seeds to butter and heat for about 1 minute until butter starts to foam. Take off heat and reserve for later.
Wash and brush artichoke, do not peel. Use a mandolin or a sharp knife to slice artichoke into 2-3mm slices. Cut the tops off the fennel, reserving fronds for later. Cut the bulb in half and slice into fine strips 2-3mm thick.
Finely dice the onion. Cut apple in quarters, remove core and slice finely.
Heat oil in a pan on medium heat, add onion and artichoke, fry for two minutes.
Season with salt, cumin, curry powder, add the sliced fennel and fry for a further 2 minutes before adding the chardonnay to deglaze the pan, cook for 1 minute more before removing from heat.
Add the sliced apple and mix.
In the centre of each piece of baking paper, place a quarter of the vegetable mix and set the fish fillet on top. Brush the fish with vanilla butter, sprinkle with lemon zest, fennel fronds and lemon juice.
Brush the sides of the baking paper with egg white and fold over the fish to create little parcels.
Place the parcels on a baking tray in the middle of the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes.
Serve in the paper parcel.