Restaurants

The Best Chefs in Auckland | 2016

By Olivia Atkinson - 03 Jun 2016

Best Chefs In Auckland
Fort Greene
Karangahape Road, NZ 1 Image
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MASU
Auckland City , NZ 1 Image
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Clooney
Freemans Bay, NZ 1 Image
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Baduzzi
Wynyard Quarter, NZ 1 Image
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The Grove
Auckland , NZ 1 Image
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There’s no denying that us Auckland folk love to eat out. You’ll find us at new openings, iconic restaurants, cutesy cafes, sammie joints and lining up at street food stalls, eager to spend our hard-earned dollies on our favourite thing: food.

However, this eating wouldn’t occur without the culinary legends behind these establishments. The chefs who use their world-class techniques and creativity to produce epic menus and ensure exceptional nosh is dished out all the time. Even more, they do everything they can to make sure their kitchen runs like clockwork. That can’t be easy.

Luckily, the Lewisham Foundation Awards is set to give them a well-deserved pat on the back. The hospitality industry awards celebrate all things good in Auckland’s dining scene. The outstanding chef award will be crowned to the chef who is an inspiration in all aspects of cooking and set standards through training and education.

The 2016 awards are happening this Sunday and will see one of the following nominees take out the title. Some of our favourite Auckland chefs are in the running and we had the chance to chat to them about their foodie thoughts.

Liam Fox | Fort Greene

The sandwich king of Auckland and one half of Fort Greene, Liam Fox is committed to churning out truly epic sammies—and that he does. 

When/why did you decide to become a chef?

I grew up around food and always showed an interest since making scones with my mum as a toddler. For me, school came to a natural conclusion at 16 when I finished 5th form. I was deciding what to do with my life when the option of becoming a chef presented itself. It felt like the natural choice and I haven’t looked back since.

What is your favourite dish on your menu at Fort Greene?

This may sound overly simple, but my favourite dish I have done so far is bread and butter. It is cultured butter that I make myself and a few slices of freshly home-baked ciabatta.

What is the weirdest thing/food combo you like to eat?

When I’m at home after a long day and need a quick snack, I toast some brown bread, cover it in lime pickle and melt cheddar cheese on top.

If you could share one cooking tip or trick with us, what would it be?

One of the things that bothers me the most is people refrigerating bread—don’t do it! Bread bins were invented for a reason. Failing that, brown paper bags do the trick. Refrigerating bread just dries it out.

If you win the outstanding chef award, what would you dream celebration look like?

Beers at my place.

Darren Johnson | MASU

Darren is the head chef at Federal Street’s MASU and was Nic Watt’s ‘must-have’ chef when setting up the restaurant.

When/why did you decide to become a chef?

My grandmother was a chef and instilled a love of food in me at a young age. I marvelled at her skill for taking simple ingredients and turning them into something beautiful and tasty. In 1996, after a stint in the forestry, I enrolled in a full-time professional cookery course at Otago Polytechnic. After a year I was on a plane to Melbourne before London beckoned.

What is your favourite dish on your menu at MASU?

Leigh long-line snapper with jalapeño and ginger dressing served with a crispy vegetable salad. It ticks all the boxes and is a fresh, healthy dish that appeals to the chilli fiend.

What is the weirdest thing/food combo you like to eat?

I used to eat pie sandwiches during my teenage years—fresh white bread with butter, a hot meat pie and tomato sauce—and revisit it every now and then.

If you could share one cooking tip or trick with us, what would it be?

Cooking the perfect roast with crispy crackling. Here’s my technique:

  • Use a small craft knife and score the skin with lots of shallow cuts.
  • Rub the skin with white vinegar and salt.
  • Leave uncovered in the fridge overnight to dry the skin even further.
  • Heat the oven to 250°C.
  • Place a wire rack on a roasting tray to keep the pork touching the bottom.
  • Rub more salt and vinegar over the skin and cook for 30 minutes. Keep an eye on it (depending on your own, you might need to adjust the time slightly).
  • After the high heat period, turn the oven down to around 180°C until cooked.

If you win the outstanding chef award, what would you dream celebration look like?

Simple, great food and wine surrounded by family and friends.

Des Harris | Clooney

Des is the executive chef at the iconic fine dining restaurant, Clooney and responsible for conjuring up some of the most innovative dishes Auckland has ever seen.

When/why did you decide to become a chef?

I decided early on (about 10-years-old) that I might become a chef. I enjoyed helping my family in the kitchen and my grandmother encouraged it.

What is your favourite dish on your menu at Clooney?

We are currently serving two of what I think are the best dishes we have ever served at Clooney. A scampi dish with buttermilk and a carrot and shellfish dressing, and a duck dish with ‘blood’—spiced chocolate sauce and beetroot—and miso juice.

What is the weirdest thing/food combo you like to eat?

Professionally, I like to challenge customers with flavour combos but my personal eating is pretty straight up and down.

If you could share one cooking tip or trick with us, what would it be?

Relax and have fun.

If you win the outstanding chef award, what would you dream celebration look like?

Probably one of my faults is that I don’t tend to celebrate my victories, just reflect. A few bevvies would definitely be had.

Ben Bayly | Baduzzi & The Grove

Running two popular restaurants wouldn’t leave much room for free time. Ben Bayly is at the forefront of Italian restaurant, Baduzzi and fine dining eatery, The Grove. He’s made a name for himself for maintaining the sterling reputation of both restaurants, creating excellent food and even starred as a judge on My Kitchen Rules New Zealand. He’s also in the running for this prestigious award. 

Image credit: Clooney

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