Award-winning restaurateur Tony Stewart of Clooney has much to celebrate and wants to share his success with Viva readers.
Congratulations, Clooney has just turned six. How has it evolved over the years?
The arrival of our chef Des Harris. His influence has been immense. Our food is now taken very seriously which is very satisfying and I have never felt closer to what we set out to do, which was to become a truly international dining experience.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first opened?
That it is so much about the team you have around you and the culture you create.
How has the eating out scene in Auckland changed in that time?
It's changed dramatically. Auckland now is very much a food destination city comparable to the likes of Melbourne and we should all be very proud of that. Maybe slightly ambitious and potentially unsustainable due to our population, but great for the customer.
How have diners changed?
The customer is a lot more knowledgeable these days, possibly due to the hugely increased exposure of food in media and sheer number of restaurants on offer.
What excites you most about Clooney at the moment?
Now at our sixth year, having the ability to look back and see how much better we have become.
What keeps you awake at night?
Nothing really. When you clock up the hours we tend to do, sleep comes easily.
What Clooney dish should everyone should try at least once?
Our menu changes constantly and we do not hold on to signature dishes. We are however going back to opening Friday lunches with the intention of revisiting some popular dishes of the past. One being Des's confit duck leg, parsnip puree, Pedro Ximenez soaked prunes and elderflower.
How do you ensure the food and the wine list keep evolving?
We are lucky enough to be well regarded for both food and wine. Des and wine co-ordinator Natasha Parkinson use many suppliers, which can cause its difficulties when they all want to visit, but is great for its large and varied offering. At the moment, Burn Cottage Pinot is a wine that excites me. They have an amazing piece of land in Central Otago, an owner that has great vision and a very talented wine-making team.
You travel regularly. Does this influence your ideas in the restaurant?
I was very luckily to be invited to the Moet Hennessy groups maisons in France two years ago which was amazing from both a cultural and culinary perspective. Astrance in Paris was a standout for its clean, Asian-influenced, produce-driven cuisine. So simple, so effective and inspirational.
What advice would you give to someone starting out?
Have stamina, a vision and constantly think of your customers and their expectations.
What are the key things on a daily basis that keep Clooney at the top of its game?
A hands-on approach by everyone, progression, a belief in what we are doing, a look to the future and a "no corners cut" attitude.
Plans for the future?
All are firmly focused on Clooney at present, from our Friday lunches, cocktail culture and our basement lounge activity. From there it would be nice to think we could look towards another offering.
Entertain with Clooney at your home!
Clooney restaurant is celebrating six stunning years of success. To commemorate this anniversary, Clooney is giving diners the opportunity to savour the most acclaimed tasting menu in Auckland, with groups of four or more being treated to a complimentary bottle of Moet.
Plus, one lucky Viva reader has the chance to win a unique Clooney culinary experience in their own home. Restaurateur Tony Stewart and executive chef Des Harris will come to your home, and host a party for six people. Chef Harris will create a range of distinctive dishes that have made Clooney so popular and Tony Stewart will ideally match those with wines from the Clooney cellar - a once-in-a-lifetime event to be remembered forever.
To enter go to nzherald.co.nz/vivagiveaways and enter the keyword Clooney on the VIP Viva page along with details. Entries close at 11.59pm on Sunday, June 10, 2012. For terms and conditions see the website.