- Story by Susan Lundy Photography by Lia Crowe
• Born and raised on a dairy farm in the Waikato, New Zealand
• Third year at Unsworth
• Previously: executive chef at Lochmara Lodge, New Zealand; sous chef at Emerald Lake Lodge, Field, BC; sous chef at Restaurang 28+, Gothenburg, Sweden (1 Michelin Star); sous chef at Craggy Range Terroir Restaurant, New Zealand (top winery in NZ).
Why did you decide to become a chef?
After graduating with an advanced diploma in hotel management, I decided that my favourite aspect of the course was the kitchen side. I grew up cooking with fresh produce from my parent’s orchard and garden, and using the farm-reared animals.
What’s the one ingredient you can’t live without?
Butter. They say the three secrets to French cuisine is butter, butter and more butter, and I couldn’t agree more. This may also have something to do with my upbringing on a dairy farm.
What is your go-to meal when you’re low on time?
Risotto of any description: it takes less than 30 minutes from start to finish, and can be made with anything you have lying around. The key to impress is finishing with the right amount of butter and Parmesan.
What would your last meal be?
Whole-fried fish. One of my favourite meals was from this little shack in Lagunas de Chacahua, Mexico, where I had whole-fried red snapper, and the fish was caught just one hour before I ate it. The best restaurant I’ve ever eaten at is Tjöruhúsið in Isafjorður, Iceland. It’s a little shed on the wharf with a long communal table and self service, using only fish that has arrived from the boats that afternoon, cooked in a variety of ways and served in sizzling-hot skillets.
What is the best recent food trend?
The trend of using fresh, local ingredients. This is the main philosophy of what we do here at Unsworth. Being fresh, the flavours of the ingredients speak for themselves. It’s very important to be able to connect directly with local farmers and producers who spend a lot of time, care and hard work to grow and make their products.
What is the most overrated recent food trend?
Making vegetarian products that look and taste like meat products. I do agree that we have to move away from a meat-heavy diet and that we should be eating a lot more plant-based food, but I don’t see the point in making something look and taste like meat when it’s not.
What is a good simple piece of advice for pairing wine and food?
Pick what will be either be your wine or the main component of you dish and do some research. I always try to stick with classic pairings.
What is your favourite cuisine to cook?
Mediterranean (French, Spanish and Italian, in particular). They always use fresh, local ingredients with techniques that have been perfected over centuries.
When are you happiest at work?
After a smooth, really busy service when we get to sit down as a team and have a beverage.
When are you happiest outside of work?
When I’m traveling, playing golf or on the cricket field.
Can you share an easy, seasonal recipe for a quick bite this fall?
Roasted Butternut Squash, Sage & Pearl Barley Risotto
2 cups butternut squash (diced 1 ½ cm cubes)
4 Tbsp olive oil
¾ cup pearl barley
1 onion (finely diced)
¼ cup Unsworth Allegro wine
3 cup vegetable stock
3 Tbsp butter (diced)
¾ Cup Parmesan (finely grated)
2 Tbsp sage (finely chopped )
4 Tbsp toasted pumpkin seeds
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 280 degrees. Combine butternut squash, 2 Tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper on a roasting tray and bake for 15 minutes or until just cooked and lightly caramelized. Remove from oven and set aside.
In a pot, bring the vegetable stock to a boil and then turn down to a low simmer. In a separate pot over medium heat, add 2 Tbsp olive oil and the onions, and sweat until translucent. Add the pearl barley and cook for 1 minute, making sure it does not stick to the bottom of the pot. Add the wine and cook for 1 minute or until it has reduced down to nothing.
Add vegetable stock so it just covers the barley and cook down over medium–low heat until the barley absorbs the stock. Repeat until all the vegetable stock is used (should be 6 to 8 times). Once all the stock is gone, taste the consistency of the barley — it should still have a slight crunch to it but if it is not cooked, add some water and reduce down until the right texture is achieved. Add the butter and mix in quickly with a spatula, and then turn off the heat and add the Parmesan. Stir quickly until it melts and turns into a nice creamy sauce. Add three-quarters of the roasted butternut squash and the sage, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve immediately in bowls, putting the final one-quarter of roasted butternut squash on top as well as the toasted pumpkin seeds.
Enjoy with a glass of Unsworth Allegro.
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