US town of foodies gives Kiwi top honour

By Amelia Wade

New Zealander Anna Weinberg says her award for her Park Tavern in San Francisco was 'a bit of a surprise'. Photo / Supplied
New Zealander Anna Weinberg says her award for her Park Tavern in San Francisco was 'a bit of a surprise'. Photo / Supplied

When photographers came to get shots of Anna Weinberg in her glamorous San Francisco restaurant, she was completely unaware of the real reason they were there.

But the Aucklander has since learned she was named Restaurateur of the Year in the San Francisco Magazine best chef awards.

"When they were taking my picture, they said it was just a fun little article about seven influences," she said.

"I didn't realise it was going to be on the cover of the magazine. It was a bit of a surprise, it was really cool."

Mrs Weinberg, 35, was born in Auckland and grew up on Waiheke Island where she developed a passion for food and wine.

But that was not her first-choice career path - she originally wanted to act. Then she decided she wasn't that good at acting, but was much better at food and wine.

So at the age of 20 she moved to New York to better her culinary knowledge.

"New Zealand back then wasn't what it is now and I didn't really see a way to learn about Italian food or French wine, we just didn't have that then ... New York had more of that for me," Mrs Weinberg said.

She eventually opened her own small eatery there, before she was drawn to San Francisco by Peter Weinberg, who would one day become her husband.

The pair returned to Waiheke, which she calls home, in 2009 to marry.

Mrs Weinberg and an Australian chef opened their own San Francisco business, which started to take off. When her business partner decided to return to his homeland, Mrs Weinberg took over the business and made it her own.

"I turned it into what's now Marlowe and that's when it really took off and people really responded to it," she said.

"It gave us a really great platform, a really good profile and a really good customer base to open Park Tavern, which is a much larger, more ambitious project."

Within weeks, the newer restaurant was the place to eat.

The cuisine at her restaurants is based on seasonal local and fresh produce, so there's no room for any New Zealand food on the menu.

Kiwi wine, however, does feature - Mrs Weinberg is a self-confessed fan of a drop of New Zealand grape.

And all her hard work paid off with her recent award and recognition for what she's achieved, which she said was especially humbling because San Francisco is a town of foodies.

"It's a tough food town, but it's great - we're very lucky to be here."

Her parents moved to Hawkes Bay about 10 years ago and grow for the Villa Maria winery. So when she and her husband return to New Zealand they have the choice of Waiheke or Hawkes Bay, a choice Mrs Weinberg says she is spoiled to have.

- NZ Herald

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