Mikey Newlands greeted me at the door of his Hillsborough home in slippers that he thought may have been made of Canterbury lambswool.
Like any self-respecting hipster, he told me he was "pretty far from hipster", but the signs were all there: He made his own kombucha and nasturtium vinegar, had a bookshelf, used words like "cerebral", wore thick-rimmed glasses and an unbuttoned lumberjack shirt, and had spent the morning "foraging" for produce "around the neighbourhood".
For lunch, he was making poached leeks with Spanish ham, brown butter, homemade goat's cheese and the various plants he'd stolen from his neighbours.
He's between jobs right now, spending much of his time at home with his 6-week-old son and awaiting the planned February opening of his new Orakei restaurant, Ampersand, following his departure from South Auckland's best restaurant, Bracu.
He boiled a pot of water and chucked the leeks in with some Himalayan pink salt and what appeared to be roughly half a bottle of white wine. He put in some bay leaves and thyme and something that may have been called corona. He started making some brown butter.
I let him know when five minutes had passed.
"Oh, we're going to piss in," he said.
He grew increasingly verbose, narrating as he cooked: "I made this goat's cheese because at the moment I'm a stay-at-home dad and I've got time to burn, and I love this stuff, but you don't have to."
He began plating, laying down one skinny slice of Spanish ham. It wasn't long after midday. I looked forlornly at the lack of meat on the plate and imagined the long late-afternoon hunger pangs of which its insubstantiality foretold.
He may have noticed the look on my face because he said, "If the Herald was paying for this, I'd give you two pieces." Which still wouldn't have been nearly enough.
He tasted the brown butter, which smelled incredible. "Oh!" he said. "Oh, Chef!"
I didn't know if I should chip in on what appeared to be a private conversation of self-congratulation but It seemed awkward not to. I said, "You've got to be proud of yourself don't you?"
"As a good friend of mine once said," he replied, "'If you don't rate yourself, mate, no one else will.'"
That was particularly bad advice for somebody whose success or failure relies almost entirely on being rated by others, but it wasn't my place to tell him that. I told him he had 90 seconds left.
"Ninety seconds!" he said. "Right! What's missing, Chef? Right ... Gasbagging too much, that's why."
He pulled out the fruits of his foraging, narrating as he went. "This is wild t ... " - he paused, looked more closely at what he was holding. "That's not wild turnip at all, that's a weed."
He finished plating. It looked fantastic, he told me. It was 30 seconds late.
"I think you'll let me get away with that," he said.
"Will I?" I said.
I took a bite. The brown butter formed a sweet, nutty pool of ecstasy into which the elegant leek and the tiny scrap of meat swooned. It was so good that my impulse was to cram everything on the plate into my mouth in one go. It wouldn't have been hard.
Mikey Newland's scores (out of five):
Time management: 1
Criminal trespass and/or theft: 3.5
Withholding of protein: 4.5
Salad of Poached Leeks, Spanish Ham and Fresh Goat's Cheese with Brown Butter Vinaigrette
By Mikey Newlands
• 4x thin leeks, about 3cm in diameter, (you could use baby ones if you wish)
• 75g unsalted butter
• 1 tsp capers
• 2 Tbsp hazelnuts, peeled
• 3 Tbsp honey vinegar or quality cider vinegar
• 100g fresh goat's cheese
• 4 large slices of Serrano ham or your favourite cured pork product
• 4 handfuls of assorted salad leaves from your garden or the grocer
• Splash of white wine
• 1 bay leaf
• Salt and pepper to taste
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Season with salt and add a good splash of wine and a bay leaf.
2. Poach the leeks in the water for about 6 mins, until they're soft at the base.
3. Meanwhile in a small pot, melt the butter. Crush the hazelnuts lightly with the back of your knife and add to the butter. Cook the butter until it is nut brown and fragrant.
4. Add the capers (it will sizzle) and then the vinegar (it will really sizzle), this should take almost exactly the same amount of time as the leeks.
5. Remove the leeks into a dish and pour the hot butter on top.
6. Cut leeks into 3 and arrange on the plate, dress with the still warm butter, arrange the ham and goat's cheese, making sure that the cheese and butter get to know each other.
7. Add the leaves on top. I don't dress these as you already have the delicious butter on the plate.
8. Enjoy and admire your own genius ... and humility.