Taste of NZ: Key chefs share their expertise

They produce some of the finest dishes in the restaurant world. Their talent and expertise is paramount. Viva talks to the key chefs who will be serving up their creations at Taste of New Zealand.

Ben Bayly from The Grove. Photo / Supplied
Ben Bayly from The Grove. Photo / Supplied

BEN BAYLY, THE GROVE

Why be a chef?

I love the pressure and rush of the daily deadline of service, cramming as much work as I can into my day, I also love the search and discovery of exceptional ingredients as the seasons change.

Favourite ingredient right now?

White asparagus have just started. Amazing flavour, slight bitterness, very short season. I also have a West Coast, South Island whitebait fetish, I could eat it by the kilo.

Top culinary tip?

Season as you cook, it lets the salt penetrate the food. Lots of people wait till towards the end of the cooking process. When you taste, close your eyes, and roll the food over you palate and think of the flavours and seasoning you are tasting, think of ways to improve next time. Cooking for me is a thought process that is constantly evolving and improving.

Pantry cupboard essentials?

I almost always find myself starting my cooking at home by sauteing onions and some garlic, I love the aroma, it makes me salivate and hungry. The onion family provide a deep base flavour and sweetness for so many dishes that can't be underestimated.

What keeps you awake at night?

Whether my good fish is coming tomorrow or not and who is not going to show up to work.

Desert island dish?

Roasted foie gras with a cold bottle of Chateau d'Yquem. We don't have it here and I miss it.

Guiltiest pleasure?

An Old Fashioned cocktail.

MARCO EDWARDS, TE WHAU VINEYARD & RESTAURANT

Current favourite ingredient?

Elderflower essence - it reminds me of my home. I am using it in my salmon dish at the moment. Elderflower and white chocolate emulsion.

Top culinary tip?

Take your time, don't rush. Keep it simple, colourful and fresh.

Pantry cupboard essentials?

Waiheke extra virgin olive oil, pasta, salt and pepper. With these ingredients and with what's in the garden I can always have a quick and delicious meal.

Top kitchen appliance?

A tasting spoon. Taste and textures are very important to me.

What keeps you awake at night?

My beautiful wife, coffee, cookbooks.

Desert island dish?

A delicious apple strudel with vanilla sauce. It would probably be the first time time that I could eat the whole thing myself.

When you're off duty what do you cook?

I like to cook "one-pot" dishes - casseroles, stews, risottos, soups - with whatever is in season. Family-friendly and lots of flavour.

Guiltiest pleasure?

A slice of good sourdough bread, plenty of butter and ... camembert.

MAKOTO TOKUYAMA, COCORO

Why be a chef?

I love the fact that with my cooking, I can make a person happy. I am sure everyone would have an experience of being comforted by a simple bowl of soup when they feel bad, or remember a particular special occasion because of the food they had. Being able to be the person that creates that dish to me is a real privilege.

Current favourite ingredient?

Fresh whitebait. It is in its best season now; it is also a very good quality seafood that represents New Zealand well and is suitable for use in Japanese cuisine because of its delicate flavour.

Pantry cupboard essentials?

My basic Japanese ingredients; good quality soy sauce, mirin, miso and cooking sake.

Favourite kitchen appliance?

Charcoal grill. I love the extra flavour and the smokiness that charcoal can bring out.

When you're not in the kitchen what are you getting up to? With my family or surfing at Te Arai Point.

Desert island dish?

Fresh fish sashimi. Isn't that obvious?

When you're off duty what do you cook?

Pasta. I love noodles, my first few years of chef training in an Italian restaurant probably has something to do with it.

Guiltiest pleasure?

Japanese tonkotsu (pork bone stock) cup noodles. Its quick, it's tasty and did I mention I love noodles?

WARREN TURNBULL, DISTRICT DINING

Current favourite ingredient?

Green lip mussels (forgot how bloody good they are).

Top tip?

Go and source great ingredients, let the product do the talking.

Pantry essential?

Good olive oil, sea salt and a good range of spices, makes a nothing dish into something awesome.

Favourite kitchen appliance?

A really, really good blender, worth that little bit of extra cash for great purees, soups, sauces.

Dream dinner guests?

The All Blacks RWC Champions 2011. Here's hoping.

What keeps you awake at night?

When I have a big function, TV or cooking demo the next day, I still to this day get so nervous of screwing up.

Guiltiest pleasure?

Pizza (usually when the wife's away).

BEN BATTERBURY, TRUE SOUTH DINING ROOM, THE REES HOTEL, QUEENSTOWN

Kitchen appliance you can't live without?

Having a couple of good quality pans is really important. By spending a little more on a decent frying pan and saute pan it will definitely last longer.

Current favourite ingredient?

At this time of year we are spoilt for choice. Fresh scallops landed from Nelson and West Coast whitebait are current favourites. Blink and you'll miss the season, so I appreciate it when they're available. Our local organic asparagus has also caught my eye and palate. It's such a versatile ingredient that is fantastic to eat and for me, it's the first real symbol that the sun is coming, bringing more and more produce with it.

When you're not in the kitchen what are you getting up to?

In the sunshine, it's mountain biking all the way. I also enjoy cooking at home for friends. It's a different sort of food and atmosphere to cooking at the restaurant and I enjoy the variety.

Desert island dish?

I don't think I will ever get bored of sushi. But it would be nice to take some cheese too and of course an endless supply of teabags.

Guiltiest pleasure?

Good wines and good cheese.

JAMIE MILLER, JAMES

Top culinary tip?

Don't cook or eat the same thing every day. Variety is the spice of life.

Current favourite ingredient?

At James we have a wood-burning grill so we are trialling different types of wood. It will be great coming into summer grilling new season vegetables, different sizes and cuts of seafood, meat and birds. The flavours are great.

What keeps you awake at night?

When Mint Kitchen Catering has a big event - it can get stressful.

When you're not in the kitchen what are you getting up to?

Watching the rugby on the box.

When you're off duty what do you cook?

You can't beat a roast. Lamb or chicken with all the trimmings. It's easy and always tastes great.

JOHNNY SCHWASS, RESTAURANT SCHWASS

Why be a chef?

I love the interaction with nature and the ability to bring joy to people through good food.

Favourite current ingredient?

Salt is always at the top of the list. Too much salt is not good for you but not enough is a crime.

Top culinary tip?

Buy fresh, local food from people you know and trust.

Pantry cupboard essentials?

Waipara Valley olive oil, selection of salts, olives, capers and anchovies.

Kitchen appliance you can't live without?

Thermomix and a good kitchen hand to clean up.

When you're not in the kitchen what are you getting up to?

Growing food, playing drums, sorting through my collection of vinyl, staring at my daughter doing very little, sitting, thinking and drinking Three Boys beer.

Desert island dish?

A pig, for a bit of company to begin with, then as a selection of delicious small goods. The most versatile of all animals and I could not survive without bacon.

Guiltiest pleasure?

Don't tell anyone but I have a soft spot for KFC Wicked Wings.

JUSTIN RIMMER, THE WHARF

Current favourite ingredient?

Pomegranate seeds - great colour and a taste explosion. Baby fennel bulbs - sweet and sexy, good cooked, sensational raw. Raukumara venison - a great lean meat with a robust wild flavour. Monkfish - beautiful white-fleshed fish, fair price, awesome for fish mousse with crayfish.

Top culinary tip?

Prep. Be organised. Rest your proteins, taste your food before you serve and sea salt is your friend.

Foodie you most admire?

Ferran Adria because he's unselfishly opened up a new way of thinking and doing by sharing his concepts and products. I believe he has done more to revolutionise food in the past hundred years than any other person.

When you're off duty what do you cook?

In winter, one pot/wok cooking is big in my house, hearty robust flavours. In summer, salad greens and vegetables from the garden and the barbecue - grilling or smoking that beautiful fresh fish I've just caught.

Guiltiest pleasure?

The bakery, anything savoury, pies, sausage rolls etc.

NICK HONEYMAN, CRU AT SALE ST

Why be a chef?

I love working with food and turning it into art, the satisfaction of happy customers is instant gratification of the hard work you put into your food. Although it can be stressful in the kitchen you have a sense of fulfillment afterwards and the stress does not follow you home.

Current favourite ingredient?

Yuzu juice, the amazing flavour and strong acidity is something so unique. You can find this on my new menu with rock melon sorbet and sashimi yellowtail.

Pantry cupboard essentials?

Linguine, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, chilli and white wine. This pasta dish is my staple diet; I could drink quality olive oil by the glass.

Foodie you most admire why?

Pascal Barbot, he has a little 26-seat restaurant in Paris and three Michelin stars. He has a simple style of cuisine using raw and cooked ingredients with a sense of minimalism on his plates and it just works. I have never met a man with a better palate.

Desert island dish?

Something with coconut. If you have the natural resource to be able to forage for amazing ingredients at your feet you are crazy not to use them.

Guiltiest pleasure?

Cheese, any cheese and lots of it. It's so bad but so good.

RICK STEIN, MALAYSIA KITCHEN

Favourite current ingredient?

Malaysian shrimp paste, belachan. It's made from tiny shrimps salted and dried in the sun then packed in blocks. It has a very pungent aroma and flavour which on first encounter can put people off but in time, you realise that it's the absolute sine qua non of Malaysian cooking. Their dishes would be the lesser without it.

How would your staff describe you?

Disorganised but full of ideas, fun to work with but at times a pain in the bum.

Top culinary tip?

Use a probe thermometer for measuring the centre of fish or meat. Rare 50 to 60, medium 60 to 70.

Pantry cupboard essentials?

Belachan, fish sauce, palm sugar, rice vinegar, soy, ketchup manis, star anise, szechwan pepper, cinnamon, coriander, cardamom (green and black), nutmeg, fennel seed, turmeric, chilli, peppercorns (white, black and green) and salt. Virtually everything I need for Malaysian cooking.

Desert island dish?

Moules a la mariniere.

Guiltiest pleasure?

Without doubt it's a total addiction to prawns, sourdough bread and my own mustard mayonnaise. It doesn't sound too bad but once the fridge door is open with a pile of prawns and a fresh loaf I keep finding myself back there.

At Taste what will you be doing?

Cooking some lovely Malaysian dishes: grilled snapper stuffed with a shrimp and lemongrass curry paste, Kuala Lumpur chicken and prawn curry laksa, nasi goreng with grilled lime chicken.

TIM PICKERING, THE FARM AT CAPE KIDNAPPERS

What do you love about being a chef?

Unpacking great fresh ingredients, prepping any kind of seafood. Meeting appreciative guests. Cooking anything, no matter how simple, that is perfect.

Current favourite ingredient?

Nelson scallops, because they have only an exceptionally short season this year, so we need to celebrate them while we can.

Top culinary tip?

Get your knives sharpened and always put them in a knife block (not the kitchen drawer) and always wash and clean the blade straight after using it.

Pantry cupboard essentials?

The best olive oil and balsamic that I can afford, some nice vinegars (sherry, red wine, white wine, rice), some whole spices, anise, cinnamon, cumin, coriander etc ...

Favourite kitchen appliance?

At home, the kettle for my morning coffee. At work, the dishwasher - we'd come to a grinding halt without it. For everything else you can nearly always improvise.

Foodie you most admire?

At the Cape I have worked with some really great chefs in the past couple of years. For me the flavours that Neil Perry uses are so fresh and exciting. Rick Stein had such a genuine love of food and what he was doing. For a kitchen personality Josh Emett was fantastic, very calm and controlled, a true professional. Tetsuya and Peter Gordon are two chefs who I admire, they still work very hard and always seem humble.

When you're off duty what do you cook?

In summer, tomato and avocado on Vogels toast. Lately lots of Asian noodle soups with spicy pork meatballs.

Guiltiest pleasure?

Green and Blacks 85 per cent dark chocolate.

SANJEEV KUMAR, MONSOON POON

Favourite kitchen appliance?

Mortar and pestle, you can't beat freshly ground ingredients.

Current favourite ingredient?

Chilli, lime leaves and lemongrass because of their ability to lift dishes and also their intensity of flavour.

Top culinary tip?

Only chop fresh herbs once.

Pantry cupboard essentials?

Birds eye chilli, lentils, olive oil.

Foodie you most admire?

Gordon Ramsay - he's hard working, has good solutions to operating problems and he knows how to swear and get away with it.

What keeps you awake at night?

Did I forget to place an order with a supplier?

Desert island dish?

Aloo paratha (potato stuffed bread) takes me back to my childhood.

Guiltiest pleasure?

Chocolate, especially Crunchie and Bounty.

WENDY SUTHERLAND & ALISDAIR GRIBBEN, MARVEL GRILL

Current favourite ingredient?

Fresh South Island whitebait because customers love it and get excited when it becomes available.

Culinary tip?

Good products simple flavours.

Pantry essentials?

Eggs, many types of cheeses, cold cuts - we love omelettes. Omelettes in the morning, omelettes late at night.

Foodie you most admire?

Jamie Oliver's focus on improving children's meals in schools.

Desert island dish?

Champagne.

When you're off duty what do you cook?

As we are a grill restaurant and eat a great deal of steak, quite often at home we are big about the roasts. Our family loves roast chicken and roast pork.

Guiltiest pleasure?

Champagne.

- NZ Herald

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