We lured celebrated New Zealand chef Peter Gordon – owner of Bellota and the Sugar Club in Auckland; Kopapa and the Providores and Tapa Room in London – out of the kitchen for five minutes, to quiz him about his country’s cuisine. Peter is a consultant chef for Air New Zealand’s onboard menus; he also has a tasty new book out, called Savour: Salad for all Seasons…
What makes New Zealand special?Geographically, we have pretty much every type of climate and terrain, from sub-tropical through to year-long-snow-capped mountains. This means we can grow crops such as avocado through to the tastiest cabbages, with grapes of many varietals, from sauvignon blanc through to syrah. Few other small countries can offer the same.
What’s great about being in New Zealand, from a chef’s perspective?Our seasons are very distinct, and so when asparagus is in season, you use it as much as you can before it disappears. Likewise, because the country is so long, from north to south, the lambing season starts up north and slowly makes its way south, so you get to taste the differing flavours in the meat.
How would you describe New Zealand’s cuisine? What are its influences?
It’s still evolving. Unlike, say South East Asia, we haven’t had centuries of culinary input. Migration into the country from the Pacific to more recent immigrants have all affected the cuisine in a very positive way.
What should people try, in terms of food and drink, when they visit – and where?
Our kaimoana (seafood) is second to none, as we have such pristine waters; personal favourites would be whitebait (only a few months from November), Bluff oysters and blue cod. Our lambs are the tastiest in the world. And try to attend a hangi: cooking in the earth, Maori style.
What are your three top tips, when it comes to New Zealand’s food and drinks scene?
My favourite Japanese restaurant is Cocoro on Brown Street in Ponsonby, Auckland. Makoto is a genius – I love the way he combines our NZ produce with his Japanese techniques to
produce some of the best food in NZ. The sake-matching menu is worth doing, too – you’ll learn so much about this wonderful drink.
Have fish and chips on Castlecliff Beach, Whanganui: my home town and home suburb. The bleached tree trunks, washed up on the black-sand beach after falling in the Whanganui
River, are a wonderful backdrop – especially if the skies are clear and you can see Mount Taranaki, hundreds of kilometres up the coast.
Enjoy a few bottles of wine on a boat in the Marlborough Sounds: the region is famous for its sauvignon blanc, but it also produces some terrific pinot noir, riesling and gewürztraminer, as well as other varietals. There’s nothing better on a sunny day than cruising through the Sounds on a water taxi or hired boat, drinking the local wines and eating locally harvested green-shell mussels and salmon sashimi.
Tell us about your collaboration with Air New Zealand?
I applied to become an apprentice chef with Air NZ when I was 15. I didn’t get a placement. However, I have now been a consultant chef with the airline for many years and I work with their culinary standards team, creating dishes for all meal services – breakfast through to late suppers – on all legs of the network.
Tell us something about New Zealand that we don’t know…
We only have one indigenous mammal and that is a bat.
What is your favourite thing to do in New Zealand? And favourite place to be?
Get on a boat on the water. We have so much water – whether it be the Hauraki Gulf out of Auckland, the stunning Whanganui River (my hometown) or walking over the rocks around Cape Palliser, looking at the seals and penguins.