Three Top Chefs and What They Love About New Zealand
Ask three top New Zealand chefs about what they love about where they live and they have the same answer.
It’s the fresh produce.
Chefs Jonathon Rogers, Barry Frith and James Honore all share a love of fresh local produce.
They also passionately believe New Zealand has the best when it comes to vegetables bursting with flavour, fish pulled from the ocean that day, meat that melts in your mouth and fruit that pops with flavours the minute you take a bite.
The trio has sourced fabulous produce from local producers and love to discard their cooking gear and forage near their exclusive lodges to ensure an exciting dining experience for guests.
James Honore – Executive Chef – The Farm at Cape Kidnappers
James describes his cuisine as contemporary New Zealand and says he’s lucky the surrounding area has so much choice when it comes to great produce.
“I create farm fresh menus prepared with modern techniques, drawing heavily on the amazing fresh produce from The Farm’s vegetable gardens and Hawkes Bay region,” he says.
“What I particularly like is the freshness of the produce here, so many vegetables are grown locally we can get them in many cases just a few hours after they were picked.”
James believes what sets his restaurant apart from other leading eateries in New Zealand is his ability to cater for specific needs.
“I create bespoke menus for guests with dietary restrictions, we keep track of guests specific likes and dislikes and we deliver a personalised dining experience.,” he says.
“As leading chefs we have the responsibility of using sustainable products, using what is in season and promoting the best of our regions produce.”
James says his menus are a reflection of the Hawke’s Bay and hopes guests take away a sense of this special place.
“Guests are more discerning these days due to such an increased interest in cooking enhanced by the many television culinary shows,” he says.
“I think the exposure from such shows has opened opportunities for us as chefs to serve more challenging cuisine. Guests are now more open to trying something different and value the time and thought behind creating a balanced menu.”
What’s the secret of running a successful restaurant? According to James, it is consistency, keeping current and identifying your niche and committing to it.
The Farm at Cape Kidnappers has an impressive golf course but James says he rarely has time to play. He is not complaining though as he thinks he has a dream job.
One of James Honore’s favourite recipes
Berkshire Pork Loin, Sunchokes, Guava, Walnut
Serves 4 as an entree
2 Berkshire pork fillets – James use free-range organic
300g sunchokes, scrubbed well
50g shallots, sliced
1 clove garlic, germ removed
300ml chicken stock
1 sprig thyme
1 fresh bay leaf
12 young beetroot leaves
300ml vegetable oil
30g walnuts, toasted
Preheat oven to 180C, remove silver skin from pork fillets & allow to come up to room temperature.
Peel the sunchokes reserving the skins. On a mandolin slice 2 of the larger sunchokes very thinly, cover with water for at least 30 minutes to reduce the sugar content.
Cut 12 pieces roughly 2cm x 2cm, and set aside, slice the remainder thinly, with a pot on a medium heat, sweat the garlic and shallots with a little olive oil and salt until softened.
Add the sliced sunchokes and the reserved skins cooking until they begin to colour, add the bay leaf & thyme and cover with the chicken stock, simmer until tender then liquidise in a blender and pass through a fine sieve, check seasoning.
Heat the vegetable oil to 130c, fry the thinly sliced sunchokes until crisp but only lightly coloured. Heat a heavy-bottomed fry pan on a high heat, season the pork fillets with salt and pepper, add a little vegetable oil and sear the pork in the pan rolling it backwards and forwards to get an even colour, reduce the heat to medium.
Add a knob of butter, a sprig of thyme and half a clove of garlic, continue to baste the pork until its internal temperature is 63c when probed with a thermometer. Place on a wire rack and rest somewhere warm. In the same pan, roast the sunchoke pieces until golden and tender.
Slice the guava and dress with olive oil and salt, slice the now rested pork and assemble.
Barry Frith – Executive Chef – The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs
British born and trained, Barry Frith describes his cuisine as “a focus on using New Zealand ingredients, championing local growers and seasonal produce, with European and Asian accents.”
He says it’s the location of his restaurant that sets it apart from others.
“We’re located in one of the most beautiful regions in the world, with stunning vistas of the Bay of Islands. The proximity to the ocean also means we’re able to maintain relatively low food miles with fish often caught and cooked on the same day,” he says.
Barry says there’s a rich bounty of fresh produce in the area.
“Aside from some of the freshest and best seafood the country has to offer, Gordon Beale’s heirloom beefsteak tomatoes have an amazing look, taste and aroma – they are a winner every time,” he says.
“We champion local growers and seasonal fresh produce. The focus is on finding the best available product and creating dishes for guests, using punchy flavour combinations yet put together in a simple way so as to highlight the ingredient’s own natural beauty with the greatest visual impact. Our food draws from a wide base of international cuisine – it’s well balanced, easy to understand, and fun to eat.”
Barry says he hopes guests take away a warm memory of true hospitality and an exquisite taste experience of Northlands finest produce plus a desire to visit The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs again.
He believes the most important thing about being a leading chef helping his team reach the highest level possible and inspiring the next generation.
As for the secret of running a successful restaurant, Barry says it is staying connected to your produce and listening and responding to your guests and your team.
“It’s important to be continuously learning, improving and challenging yourself and your team,” he says.
Barry says people are much more interested in where food comes from and what they are eating these days.
“People love to talk about food and voice their opinion these days which is fine,” he says.
As for golf and playing on one of the country’s finest courses, he enjoys it when he has time.
“I love to hit the ball, but I can never find it,” he says.
Barry Frith’s favourite recipe
Ora King Salmon, Kumara, Onion Weed, Sorrel, Miso, Yuzu
80g salmon per serve
(150g mix-50/50 flake salt/sugar, 1t ground coriander, 1t ground fennel, yuzu zest. cure 24 hours)
Warm the salmon in a moderate oven for 3 minutes, char with blow torch to finish.
50ml Yuzu juice
20ml Cider vinegar
Boil and cool. After blanching the glasswort add to the pickle liquor 10 minutes prior to use.
Foraged leaves and flowers
Onion weed- spring grows in hedgerows and fields
Wood sorrel- spring grows in hedgerows and fields
Glasswort- estuarial coastal green, grows on the ebb and flow of tide
Warm gently in a small saucepan with a little clarified butter.
200g Beauregard kumara- boil till tender for pureeing
75g butter-heat in a pan till nut brown colour
Blend the two together and season with a little flake salt
200ml Yuzu juice
4g Agar agar
Bring to a steady boil, add the agar and sugar, continue to boil for 3 minutes, once set in fridge, place in a blender and blend back to a gel.
30ml Rice vinegar
1/4cup White miso paste
1/2cup Brown sugar
Boil liquids together till half reduced, add the miso and whisk in, gradually add the brown sugar whisking thoroughly with each addition.
Jonathon Rogers – Executive Chef – Matakauri Lodge
New Zealand-born Jonathon Rogers says they change the menu daily to give guests a wide variety of the best of New Zealand produce, depending what’s in season and available in the Central Otago region.
“My favourite ingredient at the moment is black truffles from Black Quail Estate in Bannock Burn. It’s a highly seasonal product, so it’s something very special to serve to our guests. I love the history and traditions of this ingredient and the flavour combinations it provides,” he says.
Jonathon describes his cuisine as modern New Zealand with a focus on local, seasonal, organic and heritage and heirloom producers and suppliers.
Continual innovation and improvement, and welcoming new challenges is what makes a successful restaurant according to Jonathon.
He says it is all about empowering the team to develop and become better.
When guests leave he hopes they take with them a memorable experience that will be with them for the rest of their lives.
“I also hope guests get to experience and taste some new ingredients and flavour combinations that they previously never would have tried,” he says.
Like his peers, he’s noticed an increased interest in food following television culinary shows.
“I feel more people think they know what they’re talking about but there’s also a romanticised view now of what kitchen life and work is really like that is far removed from the reality of what it really is,” he says.
Jonathon Roger’s favourite recipe
Kingfish, Tomato, Oyster and Horseradish Cream
6 oysters, shucked, juices reserved
1 shallot, minced
50 gm fennel, finely diced 20 ml rice bran oil
200 ml cream, whipped to soft peaks
2½ gelatine leaves, bloomed
Heat a small saucepot over medium heat. Add the oysters, shallot and fennel and sweat until translucent. Next, add the oyster juices and bring to a simmer. Whisk in the gelatine until thoroughly dissolved. Place the oyster mix in a blender and blend until smooth, pass the mixture through a chinois. Fold the cream into the oyster mixture in two parts. Add the lemon juice and season to taste with the sea salt. Place in a container and refrigerate until set. Just before serving, whisk the set cream until it has a smooth consistency and place in a squeeze bottle.
Tomato Water Jelly
500 ml tomato water
2 gm agar agar
Place the tomato water in a small saucepot over medium heat. Whisk in the agar agar. Once the tomato water comes to a simmer, remove from the heat and pour the jelly liquid into lightly greased flat trays so it is 5 mm thick. Place in the refrigerator to set the jelly. Using a 9 cm ring mould, cut four rounds out of the jelly.
2kg vine ripened tomatoes, roughly chopped
Puree the tomatoes in a food processor. Line a colander with cheese cloth. Place the colander over a large bowl. Place the tomato pulp into the colander and allow to slowly drip through overnight in the fridge.
Tomato Water Vinaigrette
100 ml tomato water
100 ml olive oil
Whisk the tomato water and olive oil together and season to taste with sea salt.
320 gm kingfish loin, bloodline removed
Fresh horseradish, peeled
2 red beans, finely sliced on the bias
2 green beans, finely sliced on the bias
2 butter beans, finely sliced on the bias
4 small yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
4 red cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 English breakfast radishes, finely sliced on a mandolin
1 small bulb fennel, finely sliced on a mandolin
Radish blossoms Arugula blossoms
Micro bok choy
Slice the kingfish into 3 mm slices. Using a 9 cm ring mould, place the kingfish slices into a single round layer on each plate. Lightly drizzle the kingfish with tomato water vinaigrette. Place a round of tomato water jelly on top of each kingfish round. Pipe 5 dots of oyster cream on top of each jelly. Microplane fresh horseradish over each jelly and then artfully arrange the remaining ingredients over each jelly. Drizzle with tomato vinaigrette.