Taste of Auckland: Park life

Viva celebrates the best of Taste of Auckland - the festival dedicated to good food, wine, and company - yours! From November 18-21 Victoria Park will come alive with some of the best flavours this city has to offer.

Sergio Maglioni, Toto. Photo / Supplied
Sergio Maglioni, Toto. Photo / Supplied

The main stars of Taste are the chefs responsible for some of Auckland's top restaurants. Over the festival, along with their kitchen crews, they will be tantalising your tastebuds with an array of specially created dishes. Plus, there will be cooking demonstrations, masterclasses and the chance to pick their culinary skills in special chat sessions. For an insight into what drives and inspires these talented foodies, Viva asked them a few questions:

Sid Sahrawat, Sidart

What makes Sidart unique?

Attention to detail. Having a small dining room and small team means we can focus and deliver to a high standard.

Current favourite ingredient?

Licorice powder for its amazing concentration of flavour.

Latest foodie find? Raw milk cheeses.

In the kitchen you are?

Quiet.

Handy tip for the home chef?

Rest meat for at least half of the cooking time before serving.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

KFC wicked wings.

If you're not in the kitchen?

You'll find me drinking chardonnay.

Sergio Maglioni, Toto

What makes Toto unique?

The ability to create a modern yet classic Italian dining atmosphere.

Using only the freshest produce and entertaining guests with classic opera on a Saturday night we get the balance just right.

Dream dinner guests?

Toto - the Charlie Chaplin of Italian movies and a famous comedian in the Fifties. He is from Naples, my home city. Christopher Columbus and Captain James Cook because they were adventurers.

Favourite ingredient?

Artichokes, asparagus and baby spring lamb.

Latest foodie find?

Making my own mozzarella.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

Don't lend money to anybody, including friends, to help them to do business with you. (Excluding family, of course.)

Sanjeev Kumar, Monsoon Poon

What makes Monsoon Poon unique?

The many different cultures working in our team.Our restaurant is unique in that it offers authentic Asian food in a modern environment with an amazing drinks selection.

Signature dish?

Thai Yellow Chicken Curry, it has great balanced flavours and uses some of my favourite ingredients - ginger, lemongrass, chilli and kaffir lime

Favourite ingredient.

Green chillis, in season they have a fantastic heat and I love them with dhal (lentils) simmered with tomatoes, garlic, turmeric and garam masala

In the kitchen I am...

controlled, disciplined, generally happy.

My staff would describe me as ...a little bit crazy.

Handy tip?

Never cut herbs twice.

Guiltiest pleasure?

Jalabi an Indian sweet, main ingredient is sugar!

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

Be honest with yourself and those around you.

Jeremy Schmid, Two Fifteen

Claim to fame?

Still working on this. But recently have started two fifteen bistro and we have created a great local in uncertain times.

What makes Two Fifteen unique?

We make our own dried meats and sausages, bake our own bread.

Signature dish?

Our air dried beef entree which takes three months to dry, and our snapper on prawn herb risotto, our most popular dish each week.

In the kitchen you are?

Quiet and hard working (that's what I think).

What do the staff say?

Grumpy, but that's because I am concentrating.

Always in your home pantry?

Chips, great for the late night snack after a long day.

Handy tip for the home cook?

Clean as you go, less of a mess in the end to clean up.

The most important lesson life has taught you?

Treat people like you want to be treated.

Lance Tritt, Mollies

What makes Mollies unique?

Mollies offers a dining experience that involves candles, music, theatre and personality.

Dream dinner guests?

My nearest and dearest because they are scattered all over the world - I would love to have them all together on one night to share in the experience and the food! And if Tetsuya and Ferran Adria are at the table . . . wow that would just be heaven!

Biggest influence?

My mother - she has pushed me to excel and never to give up no matter how tough.

Favourite ingredient?

Koura it's fresh water crayfish but without the pricetag.Our overseas guests are fascinated by them and just how tasty it is.

Latest foodie find?

Karengo - another Maori delicacy. It's a red seaweed. Picked and dried, it has a great nutty flavour.

What's always in your home panty?

Corned Beef and Cabin Bread - a taste of home. A change from the extravagant and delectable is a necessity at the end of a hard night or week.

If you could step into someone else's shoes for a day whose would they be?

Gordon Ramsay oh to be so MEAN!

Ben Bayly, The Grove

What makes The Grove unique?

It's reinvented itself three times with three different chefs and the food and wine matching is superior.

Biggest influence?

Having a mentor from a young age, Martin Hierling, who was head chef at Essence. He gave me great advice that I would take to heart and learn from. Taught me to chase the dream. Having someone to guide and push me in the right direction was invaluable.

Favourite ingredient?

Salt. There are so many applications with salt and so many types of salt that can be used in different ways.

Always in the pantry at home?

Rolled oats with brown sugar for my breakfast. Fuel the machine.

A handy tip?

Wash large potatoes, pierce the skin, place on rock salt in large cooking tray, place in a hot oven (180), bake until the centre is very soft, then cut in half and pass through a sieve, add milk, olive oil, butter and season for light fluffy mash potatoes. Much better consistency and flavour compared to boiling potatoes and mashing them.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Pork crackling.

What keeps you awake at night?

My 15 month-old daughter, Ella.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

Get out there, travel and see the world. Have an open mind. Experience other cultures which will give you a compassion and understanding.

If you could step into someone else's shoes for a day, whose would they be and why?

A mountain climber to feel space and freedom.

Adrian Brett-Chinnery, Bracu

Claim to fame?

Appeared on Master Chef, season one, this year.

What makes Bracu unique?

Being situated in the middle of a 98-hectare olive grove in the middle of the Bombay hills.

Dream dinner guests?

Well, Escoffier would have to be there just to talk to the guy about what gave him all the ideas to revolutionize what cuisine is today. Katy Perry, the boys in the kitchen would love to meet her! Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager. Although I am a Crystal Palace fan, he is a an amazing leader and a person that proves that success doesn't come over night. Gary Rhodes, he was and still is a chef I look up to even if I do have the piss taken out of me regularly for it. And lastly Dylan Thomas, a Welsh poet and a local hero of where I am from.

Biggest influence?

Gary Rhodes from when I was young. He helped modernise British cuisine and has done such a huge amount for the industry over there which I don't

Favourite ingredient?

It's coming into summer so its berries for me. I love fruit especially raspberries, strawberries.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

Keep an open mind to new things and never think you know everything.

If you could step into someone else's shoes for a day who would it be?

Thomas Keller, chef owner of the French Laundry and various other restaurants. I love his food although I have not had the pleasure of eating there and I would hope that I would remember everything he knows the day after!

Tony Stewart, owner, Clooneys

What makes Clooney unique?

The balance we have between our food style, the ambience and service.

Where does your passion for food come from?

From my father running a produce market while I was growing up.

How would your staff describe you?

Firm but fair.

Guiltiest pleasures?

Bananas and anchovies.

Bernard Bernabe, Dine by Peter Gordon

What makes working at Dine by Peter Gordon so unique?

Working alongside the father of fusion cooking in New Zealand - Peter Gordon.

Dream dinner guest?

Sir Richard Branson. He is a visionary and he has done great things around the world.

Signature dish?

Fresh tuna or salmon sashimi with a ginger shallot dressing.

Favourite ingredient?

Beetroot ... very under-utilised vegetable.

Latest foodie find?

Clevedon Weekend Markets. A great drive to buy great locally grown and made produce and products

Handy tip?

Buy second grade cut meats and marinated them for at least 24 hours, they are fabulous for stews and even the barbecue.

What do you cook for friends?

Salted roast pork belly served with stir fried Asian greens and soba noodle.

Emile Bennington, Harbourside

What makes Harbourside unique?

Fresh seafood, superb location, longevity.

Biggest influence?

My grandmother, growing up around her cooking dishes from Burma and being inspired by her innate gift for the balancing of spices and flavours.

Latest food find?

Clevedon Buffalo Mozzarella.

Guiltiest pleasure?

Pavlova for breakfast.

Makoto Tukuyama, Soto

What makes Soto unique?

Our "New Style Japanese Cuisine"; we aim to provide the best Japanese food that combines the European ways.

Dream dinner guest?

Actually my father. As I have started my cooking career overseas, I have never had a chance to cook for him professionally.

Signature dish?

Whitebait chawanmushi (savoury egg custard), the delicate taste of whitebait matches perfectly with chawanmushi, a traditional Japanese that emphasis on texture and subtle taste.

What are you like in the kitchen?

A perfectionist.

When you're not in the kitchen? I'll be surfing at Te Arai Point.

If you could step into someone else's shoes for a day, whose would they be and why?

Shuzo Kishida, head chef of one of Tokyo's first Michelin 3 star restaurant, Quintessence. famous for his methods and ability to express his personality, passion for food and concept through dishes he creates.

Lennox Bull, Prego

What makes Prego restaurant unique?

Our staff. Hands down. They have a unique care factor and energy, both professionally and personally towards. It is a refreshing change.

Dream dinner guests?

Grandparents who have passed to show them that their migration from Niue in the 1950s was a successful choice and to make them proud.

Favourite ingredient?

White anchovies tastes of summer.

My latest foodie find is...

Big black and juicy giant Cerignola olives absolutely mammoth in size and punchy by nature.

In the kitchen I am...

Larger than life protective by nature and dangerous with a knife! but of course compassionate and driven.

In my pantry at home always have...

Pasta, a whip and a whistle. After a few whiskeys I'll explain!

Handy tip for the home cook?

Read... the... recipe.

What has life taught you?

Stick to your guns and fight for what you want - nothing gets handed to you on a silver platter. The old adage says "If it was meant to be easy, then everybody would be doing it." Learn the 6 Ps: Proper Preparation Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.

Andreas Lindberg, Mudbrick

What makes Mudbrick unique?

Mudbrick has one of the largest restaurant gardens in Auckland. We have an amazing selection of fresh, seasonal vegetables and herbs to include in our cuisine. Not to mention the amazing views.

Dream dinner guests?

All of the head chefs I've worked for in the past. They have all influenced me in some way, and I would love to show them how my own style of cuisine has evolved.

Favourite ingredient?

Fresh Waiheke snapper. We have it delivered fresh each morning from one of the local fishermen.

Foodie find?

Fiji feathers, our gardener grows them in the Mudbrick glass house. They have a wonderful crunchy texture and look very delicate. The flavour is similar to watercress, but not as spicy.

In the kitchen you are?

Constantly watching what's being put on the plate. I believe strongly in food presentation.

How would you staff describe you?

A German-lover. I seem to always end up employing a lot of German chefs.

What keeps you awake at night?

Staffing issues. With Waiheke being so seasonal, it's sometimes hard to get it right.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

Hot frying pans and forearms don't mix well.

Eugene Hamilton, Euro

What makes Euro unique?

Total dedication to surpass customers' expectations - everyone says they do it, but we really do.

Where does your passion for food come from?

DNA.

Career high?

Getting my first kitchen hand job working for Simon Gault when I was 15 years old - it set me on the path I am on now.

Dream dinner guests?

All of our best team players from Euro, past and present: because they make us what we are.

Current favourite ingredient?

Probably a bottle of Prelibato white balsamic vinegar because it is incredibly versatile.

Latest foodie find?

Polyscience sous vide professional - I believe in the future everyone is going to have one in their home.

In the kitchen you are...

An inspirational leader.

How do your staff describe you?

Demanding.

What's always in your pantry?

QP mayonnaise - my family would be lost without it

Handy tip for the home chef?

When you have a dinner party, prep everything the day before so when your guests arrive you leave them thinking - are they really going to be fed that night.

Guiltiest pleasure?

I have a sweet tooth, so the pastry section at Euro.

What keeps you awake at night?

My guiltiest pleasure.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

Not to take it too seriously - not that anyone would believe me.

If you could step into someone else's shoes for a day whose would they be?

My wife Tadayo's - I could see how difficult and demanding I am.

- NZ Herald

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