You can often find Amanda Laird, at a small authentic Cambodian, Indian, African or Vietnamese restaurant sampling cuisine she's yet to master. Drawing culinary inspiration from her mother and excited by the passionate stall holders at farmers' markets, Amanda who owns Ruby Red café in Auckland's Mangere Bridge, says she loves cooking because "it makes people happy." But nothing, she says, beats the taste of home made food.
We asked her a few more questions…
How would you describe your style of cooking?
Fresh, seasonal and inspired by my family and location.
What's your earliest food memory?
Small squares of fried cheese sandwiches, lovingly made by my grandmother, crusts off, cooked in butter and plated with cold slices of Granny Smith apples.
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Who is your cooking idol?
I have been inspired by Robert Carrier, Julia Childs, chefs I have worked with.
What is your greatest cooking achievement to date?
To open my own cafe and spend time cooking for customers. To be able to deliver the food then watch the enjoyment in an environment my husband and I have created, is very satisfying.
What's your favourite meal?
It would start with a kai moana feast, including steamed mussels, oysters, crayfish and raw fish, lots of lemons, fresh salad greens and Hot Samoan Boys chilli sauce. Followed with a shoulder of lamb studded with garlic and anchovies, barbequed in the Weber, then a trifle made with Mum's lemon curd and fresh raspberries from Uncle Reg's vine.
What are your kitchen must haves?
Good knives and at least three breadboards. Salt and pepper, olive oil, chilli and lemons. A zester, cast iron fry pan, a spatula and plenty of bowls.
Who is your dream dinner guest?
My husband, who always loves my food but we never have a quiet moment with young squabbling children to sit and enjoy dinner by ourselves. Oprah Winfrey because she loves her food and we could talk all night about the people she has met.