A few words with model, actor and restaurateur Geeling Ching.

Describe the last meal you had when all the elements were in place - the food, the company, the place itself.

At my friend Brent's 40th birthday in Sri Lanka last week - great food, great company, lunch on a tiny private island called Taprobane, which we had to reach by wading through the strait. An event two years in the planning, bringing together friends and family from around the globe. So perfect except for the crows in the trees above, that kept pooing into the pool.

What is the most important lesson to learn in the hospitality industry?

You hold your guests' dining experience in your hands; everyone should be treated with respect and care; take responsibility for your actions; listen, listen, listen ...


What is the most over-rated aspect of a dining experience?

The number of accolades the restaurant has or hasn't received. Make the experience your own, and form your own opinion.

What can you not get enough of?

True friendship ... and Bluff oysters.

What restaurant trend is the most abhorrent?

Online reviews written by unqualified or biased people, which are sometimes taken as gospel by unsuspecting members of the public. Sometimes people forget that their words can affect other people's livelihoods. Often Kiwis complain to everyone except the people who could possibly make a change - the owner or manager of an establishment. We can't be in our businesses 24/7, and an honest account of a mistake made will always be taken seriously and rectified by good operators.

The best music to dine to?

Sometimes none - the convivial hubbub of a busy dining room, the sound of people enjoying themselves is music to my ears, whether in a restaurant, a cafe or at a roadside stall.

The best to dance to?

I'm an old-school 80s girl myself. I love singing along. Too bad I can't sing.

What needs to change about NZ right now?

Surely a country as abundant as ours can make fresh fruit and vegetables affordable for everyone, so that fast-food is not the only option for low-income families? And everyone should be taught how to cook basic meals at school. Girls AND boys.

When you think back to yourself as a 20-year-old, how do you see yourself?

So much potential, so ready to jump into the world ... so naive!

In your most important relationships what quality do you rate most highly?

Knowing when the most important thing needed right now is just a hug.

What can you forgive?

Honest mistakes, as long as they are owned up to.