NZ's secret celebrity chefs

They're actors comedians and newshounds, but these Kiwi celebs are also stars in their kitchens.

More FM host and keen cook Jesse Mulligan tries his hand at pancake tossing. Photo / Janna Dixon
More FM host and keen cook Jesse Mulligan tries his hand at pancake tossing. Photo / Janna Dixon

Apparently there's something about comedians cooking. While we were poking around to find out who was doing what at this year's International Comedy Festival it came to light that quite a few of our local comics also fancy themselves as something of a whizz in the kitchen. And then it turned out it wasn't just the comedians - a couple of other well-known faces confessed to some culinary tinkering also. Here they share their inspirations, favourite foods and hot restaurant tips. Celebrity MasterChef anyone?

JESSE MULLIGAN

My day job is ... comedian, radio DJ with More FM and writer of the Auckland Food Blog.

I would describe my style of cooking as ... purist. Nothing processed. Organic where possible and long slow on the stove.

I first discovered cooking when ... I found out that girls were into a guy who could cook. Now I've nabbed my girl I've discovered the down side ... I'm in charge of the cooking pretty much every night.

My signature dish is ... a fancy stew. For my partner's 30th I did boar with wild mushrooms, chestnut and chorizo, for 40 people. I worked in the kitchen solidly for two days putting that one together.

The skill I'd most like to have in the kitchen is ... more imagination when deciding what to cook. I'm on an up-market meat and three vege buzz and can't seem to kick the rut.

My favourite restaurant is ... Coco's Cantina for some noisy fun, Sidart for art on the plate. But I change my mind regularly.

The best dish I've eaten is ... spaghetti on olive oil and garlic in a tiny trattoria in Puglia, Italy. Three or four ingredients, perfectly cooked and ever since then it's been my late night staple.

The person I'd most like to cook for is ... my new baby girl. She's 9 weeks old and all I want to do is make her the most exciting things in the world to eat. But it's breast milk eight times a day right now and I just have to wait.

If it was my last meal I'd order ... some good Spanish ham and a glass of dry fino sherry.

PETER MOCHRIE

My day job is ... playing Callum McKay on Shortland Street.

I first discovered cooking when ... I was a poor drama student in Sydney. It's amazing how many ways you can use Paul Newman's spaghetti sauce.

I would describe my style of cooking as ... definitely influenced by eastern flavours and using as many fresh ingredients as possible.

My signature dish is ... mango seafood salad or Thai beef salad.

The skill I'd most like to have in the kitchen is ... to be able to make a variety of sauces that add to the flavour.

My favourite restaurant is ... Prego in Auckland and Hugo's in Manly (Sydney).

The best dish I've eaten is ... seafood salad with crab cakes garnished with lemongrass and sweet chilli.

The person I'd most like to cook for is ... Nigella Lawson. She wouldn't approve but, hopefully, I would learn something.

If it was my last meal I'd order ... seafood salad with crab cakes, garnished with lemongrass and sweet chilli.

BEN HURLEY

My day job is ... Stand-up comedian and TV-show participant.

I first discovered cooking when ... I was a student and got sick of beans, eggs and two-minute noodles. It all stepped up a level when I moved to London. I found the restaurant food really expensive but good cooking ingredients were very easy to find due to their proximity to Europe. My wife worked all day and I only a few hours at night, so I had all day to cook.

I would describe my style of cooking as ... inexact. I like to cook because I don't really have to measure anything. For that reason I don't like to bake. Cooking is art and baking is more like science. If I was a scientist, I'd probably be Ken Ring; heavily reliant on guesswork.

My signature dish is ... Malaysian chicken curry with homemade roti. It cures whatever ails ya!

The skill I'd most like to have in the kitchen is ... the ability to not cry when I chop onions. Often I have to get my wife to do it as she wears contact lenses and it doesn't affect her. Is it slightly emasculating? Yes it is.

My favourite restaurant is ... Clooney in Auckland served me one of the best meals. Coco's Cantina is always good times. However, whenever I'm in Wellington I revisit Satay Palace for the best $9 beef rendang you'll ever have. If you find yourself in New Plymouth, check out Elixir Cafe on Devon St, a better brunch than you'll find on Ponsonby Rd.

The best dish I've eaten is ... pasta con le sarde. It's the signature dish of Palermo in Sicily. Pasta with anchovies, sardines, wild fennel and olive oil. Incredibly simple but delicious. It shows what good ingredients can do.

The person I'd most like to cook for is ... Muammar Gaddafi, I've always wanted to cook someone's last meal.

If it was my last meal I'd order ... a bucket of chicken. I'm going to die anyway, right?

HILARY BARRY

My day job is ... reading the news on RadioLive then fronting the news with Mike McRoberts at TV3.

I first discovered cooking when ... I was at primary school. I loved helping my mother cook and I was baking on my own from about age 8 or 9, with varying degrees of success.

I would describe my style of cooking as ... eclectic and messy.

My signature dish is ... always changing. This summer it was wild rice, artichoke, preserved lemon and pistachio salad.

The skill I'd most like to have in the kitchen is ... being able to julienne vegetables without slicing my fingers.

My favourite restaurant is ... a secret.

The best dish I've eaten is ... beetroot risotto with candied walnuts.

The person I'd most like to cook for is ... good friends or family because if you have a disaster, they don't care.

If it was my last meal I'd order ... four dozen Bluff oysters and a bottle of bubbles.

DAI HENWOOD

My day job is ... leader of Team 2 on TV3's 7 Days, and comedian.

I first discovered cooking when ... my father taught me to make the family mince dish (spaghetti bolognese). One of the simplest dishes but everyone seems to have their little twist. As I got older I have created my own take on it. The key is making sure there is a bay leaf in there.

I would describe my style of cooking as ... unplanned, seat-of-the-pants fusion. I start out cooking one thing and it melds into something else while I am cooking. However, I have a good sense for flavours and it ends up being tasty seven or eight times out of 10.

My signature dish is ... rack of lamb with roast potatoes and assorted vegetables. This may seem basic but to get a lamb rack perfect takes skill. Also, potatoes need a lot of love and affection before they turn into the carbohydrate you would introduce to your mother.

The skill I'd most like to have in the kitchen is ... being able to fillet a fish gracefully. Also to be able to cook a whole fish to perfection. As you may notice, fish is my weak point.

My favourite restaurant is ... SPQR on Ponsonby Rd. The consistency of their menu is wonderful.

The best dish I've eaten is ... slow-roasted pulled pork by my mate, Clayton Carpenter. I have tried to repeat it but I can't, I think there is something in the recipe that he is not telling me.

The person I'd most like to cook for is ... Zach Galifanakis, The guy with the beard from The Hangover, he is a comedy idol of mine. Also I hear he smokes a bit of the wacky backy so he would definitely be hungry.

If it was my last meal I'd order ... the longest degustation menu in the world. Hopefully we could stretch that dinner out for a few more years.

* Dai Henwood performs Fonzie Touched Me as part of the NZ International Comedy Festival, Auckland, May 11-14 at SkyCity Theatre and San Francisco Bathhouse, Wellington, May 16-21. Click here for tickets.

* Jesse Mulligan will début his first full-length solo comedy show Middle Class at the Comedy Festival, Auckland Limelight Laugh Lounge, April 30 and May 3-7. 0800 BUY TICKETS.

* Ben Hurley performs his show, Do the Evolution, at The Classic, Auckland April 30 to May 7 and Wellington's San Francisco Bathhouse, May 16-21. Click here for tickets.

- NZ Herald

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