A few of my favourite things

Otago restaurants have shown they are up there with the best of them in the recent Cuisine Good Food Awards.

Not only did 15 restaurants get into the top 100, Amisfield’s Vaughan Mabee was named chef of the year and Amisfield Bistro achieved three hats in the exclusive ranking system, while Rata in Queenstown got two hats and Moiety in Dunedin, Aosta in Arrowtown, Sherwood in Queenstown and Ode in Wanaka all achieved one hat.

So Fresh went to the chefs behind these restaurants and asked them to share some of the behind-the-scene things that make their work award-winning - with a bit of Christmas advice thrown in.

Sam Gasson
Sam Gasson
Sam Gasson - Moiety, Dunedin awarded 1 hat

Favourite ingredients to work with?

Fish from Gravity Fishing - because it is always exceptional quality and for their ethical, sustainable harvesting process. Koji, pickles and ferments because they add layers of flavours to dishes.

Favourite Christmas meal?

Not a meal but Granny Ross’ coconut ice - it’s a tradition from my partner’s family.

Favourite cookbook?

Relae Book of Ideas for it’s inspirational recipes/ideas from a region with a climate similar to New Zealand.

Favourite kitchen tool?

Thermomix - for its versatility.

Favourite knife?

Misono UX10 series - it takes an edge easy and holds it well.

Favourite pan?

I prefer not to use a pan and cook directly over charcoal instead.

Tip for cooking for the hordes at Christmas?

Write a list and delegate.

 

Thomas Barta
Thomas Barta
Thomas Barta - Botswana Butchery Queenstown

Favourite ingredients to work with?

Seafood. I find New Zealand seafood among the best in the world. It is a fresh and a delicate product to work with and there is a special connection between chefs and fishermen. When a fresh box of fish arrives it always excites me.

Favourite Christmas meal?

In Hungary where I’m originally from, my dad, who is a chef, owned a traditional fish restaurant for over 30 years now and my favourite Christmas meal is our signature fish soup. Every year we sell around 5000 portions on Christmas Day. People are queuing from early morning to put the fish soup on the Christmas dinner table. It is pretty special.

Favourite cookbook?

At the moment it is Jason Atherton’s Pollen Street cookbook. Modern British cooking is close to my heart. I love his work.

Favourite kitchen tool?

I love my temperature probe. It is always with me.

At Botswana Butchery we grill a lot of a steaks every day and the probe tells me what’s going on inside the meat and when it is reaching the desired cooking temperature. But also helps with a lot of other things.

Favourite knife?

I like handcrafted Japanese knives, the amount of time and effort goes into it is extraordinary. Every set of knives has their own story. For some reason I also love cleavers. They are big and powerful.

Favourite pan?

I like copper pans they are beautiful but hard to maintain. I also love cast iron pans, they are awesome and last forever.

Tip for cooking for the hordes at Christmas?

Choose the freshest, best product available, keep it simple and season it well.

 

Darren Lovell
Darren Lovell
Darren Lovell - Fishbone, Queenstown

Favourite ingredients to work with?

Anything I can grow at Fishbone Farm! There is something very special about cooking with something you have grown yourself.

Favourite Christmas meal?

I love turkey. It’s a big bird and we only get to eat it once a year so why not? A traditional pork pie comes a close second.

Favourite cookbook?

Stefanie Alexander’s A Cook’s Companion - the only cook book you need, it is a weighty tome filled with just about every recipe you will ever need with everything covered from rabbit pie to roasting a chook.

I also get all my chefs to read Thomas Keller’s (an American chef) book, The French Laundry named after his restaurant in northern California. It teaches you the importance of aiming for perfection.

Favourite kitchen tool?

A simple table spoon, for tasting, stirring, tasting, tossing and more tasting.

Favourite knife?

I don’t really have a favourite brand of knife but you only need one knife, a 23cm chef knife. Keep it sharp, keep it out of the dishwasher, and it will last you for life.

Favourite pan?

Again no brands but at home I seem to use the cheapest non-stick I can buy from K Mart for everything. At Fishbone black steel.

Tip for cooking for the hordes at Christmas?

Plan and prep. Start 5 days before if you need to. Don’t leave anything except cooking the protein till the day. If you need an onion diced for something you are cooking, dice it the day before. And plan the day around grazing. Tell your guests lunch may take 5 and just take your time. Oh and I like to have a bottle of French bubbles to myself before anyone arrives. That really takes away the stress!

 

James Stapley
James Stapley
James Stapley - Kika Wanaka (on World’s 50 Best discovery list)

Favourite ingredients to work with?

We are really into our vegetables at Kika, whatever is in season, asparagus, peas, broad beans at the moment, these vegetables aren’t around for long so they are even more of a treat.

Favourite Christmas meal?

It’s got to be turkey and all the trimmings, reminds me of having Christmas with the family.

Favourite cookbook?

At the moment is Jeremy Fox on Vegetables, very inspiring and completely different to the norm.

Favourite kitchen tool?

It would have to be a Thermomix, it enables us to do lots of things at Kika you couldn’t do without one.

Favourite knife?

I do like Japanese knives, Shun are always good quality so I tend to go with them.

Favourite pan?

Don’t really have a favourite but it’s worth buying a quality one well made with a thick base.

Best tip for cooking for the hordes at Christmas?

Plan ahead, keep it simple. Don’t stress it’s only dinner!

 

Lucas Parkinson
Lucas Parkinson
Lucas Parkinson - Ode Conscious Dining Wanaka, awarded 1 hat

Favourite ingredients to work with?

Anything locally grown and organic.

Favourite Christmas meal?

Leftover sandwiches the next day! It’s a peaceful ‘‘post storm’’ meal, I find everyone is most relaxed and casual, and I love sandwiches.

Favourite cookbook?

Origin by chef Ben Shewry, it provides us with simplicity, integrity and reminder that to be from New Zealand is a blessing and a special connection.

Favourite kitchen tool?

It would have to be our Pacojet, it is incomparable when making ice creams and sorbet and the customers love that their ice cream was churned to order!

Favourite knife?

  1. My Misono 440 chef’s knives, so accurate and sharp.
  2. My Misono boning knife makes preparing all the wild shot game meat at Ode a breeze.
  3. My paring knife. It’s mangled but has been with me for 13 years!

Favourite pan?

Cast iron. Can’t beat ’em in a commercial service.

Tip for cooking for the hordes at Christmas?

Keep it simple! Buy quality ingredients and they will speak for themselves, plus the less stress at Christmas time the better. Oh and use lots of butter!

 

Penny Allan
Penny Allan
Penny Allan - Balmac No 7, Dunedin

Favourite ingredients to work with?

Cauliflower, mixed spice, olive oil. Cauliflower is so versatile, available all year round, easy to grow. Mixed spice and olive oil are great for meals, salads and baking

Favourite Christmas meal?

Homemade pannetone, fresh cherries, good quality ham, jersey bennes.

Favourite cookbook?

Tess Mallos, the Complete Middle Eastern Cookbook. My mother used this book so it’s dear to me. It also has very practical recipes.

Favourite kitchen tool?

Kitchen Aid bench mixer - by far my favourite tool, I have. I love baking so, naturally, the Kitchen Aid is like a second pair of hands.

Favourite knife?

Any small sharp knife will do, long sharp serrated knives are also very handy.

I find Global knives easiest to sharpen.

Favourite pan?

Any large heavy-based pot with a lid. I would say my favourite, smaller pans I really enjoy cooking with are cast iron. Anything that distributes heat evenly is a winner.

Tip for cooking for the Christmas hordes?

Use quality over quantity. Iceberg lettuce is amazing with good quality vinegar and olive oil. Fresh asparagus, cherries, lots of herbs, new potatoes, make use of what is special at Christmas time and let others bring a plate.

 

Steven Sepsy
Steven Sepsy
Steven Sepsy - Aosta, Arrowtown, awarded one hat

Favourite ingredients to work with?

Anything from the ocean: fish, shellfish, crayfish. As Kiwis we live and breathe the ocean.

Favourite Christmas meal?

For me, paua fritters. Takes me back to childhood - the family going out on the shores of Dunedin diving for paua and going home and making fresh paua fritters.

Favourite cookbook?

My favourite cookbook of recent years is the Noma cook book, as it also comes with a diary that you can match to the cookbook to see what the chefs where thinking and why they match that ingredient to that certain dish, giving you some insight to some of the best culinary minds in the world.

Favourite kitchen tool?

You can’t beat a Thermomix for making silky smooth purees. You will always find my palette knife in my chef jacket for tasting and plating.

Favourite knife?

All my knives are Global. I have used them since the start of my culinary journey; they fit nicely in my hand and are easy to keep sharp.

Favourite pan?

My large rondeau pan is a blessing, perfect for searing meats for a braise, building sauces and the quality is amazing.

Tip for cooking for the Christmas hordes?

Keep it simple and fresh, green salads, raw fish salads, Champagne hams, all easy to do in bulk and everyone loves them. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, a pig on the spit always goes down a treat.

 

Pablo Tacchini
Pablo Tacchini
Pablo Tacchini - Cucina, Oamaru

Favourite ingredients to work with?

One of my favourite ingredients to work with right now is black garlic, because of its versatility, you can use it as it is, make a puree, use it to brush it over roasted meats or simply use it to make sauces.

Favourite Christmas meal?

Definitely whole fire-roasted lamb, because it reminds me of home. This is the way we have it in Argentina.

Favourite cookbook?

I’m using a lot the Eleven Madison Park cookbook at the moment, it has a big range of recipes and ideas that are just beautiful. Not too simple or not overly complicated.

Favourite kitchen tool?

The Thermomix, Pacojet and the dehydrators, without them some textures are impossible to achieve.

Favourite knife?

The knife that I always use is a 25cm chef knife for carving and slicing and also a long bread knife - they are very important for us to be able to get a clean and precise cut. I love Shun, a Japanese brand.

Favourite pan?

We use a lot of black iron fry-pans of different sizes. They are good for almost everything - they can go to the oven, they are easy to clean and heat up very fast.

Tip for cooking for the hordes at Christmas?

I choose food that is simple and not too complicated. Everybody wants to have a relaxing Christmas Day so don’t try to overdo it. Most of the time fresh and simple is much better than overly complicated food.

In Argentina, everyone brings the ingredients and participates in cooking together and that’s part of us connecting as a family - we don’t worry about anything else!

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