Meet the Chef: Nic Watt

By Marilynn McLachlan
28th Apr 2016

nic watt, masu, meet the chef, nic watt interview

Nic Watt hardly needs an introduction as Chef Restaurateur of top Federal St restaurant MASU, but Aucklanders, we can reveal that it’s time to get even more excited because there’s something new coming to our fair city!  Along with his wife Kelly, Nic is set to open True Food and Yoga in Okahu Bay later this year. Never fear, we’ll keep you posted with all the deets.

Being one of Auckland’s top chefs and personalities, we recently sat down to chat to Nic about his love of the City of Sails, his fave spots and that all important question—what will he cook us if we were to come to dinner!

Why Auckland?

Auckland is my home town and it has a fast growing food and life style scene. Plus one of the most beautiful harbours in the world on our front door.

Tell us about your new venture.

Kelly and I are super excited about taking over the iconic Auckland building of Hammerheads restaurant. We are working on a complete refit of the building to develop it in to a mixed use wellness hub, including an 80 seat bistro, two yoga studios, wellness beauty room for massage and facials and two chiropractor suites. In the fast paced modern world people are making healthily sustainable choices and we feel this iconic location is a perfect fit to launch True Food & Yoga.

What do you do for relaxation?

I love our harbour and any day I get to spend out there feels like two days - I grew up on and by the water - it calms and steadies the soul.

Where was the last place you went out for dinner and what did you think?

Our fave little date night spot is Beruit - the whipped labne is divine.

If you’re out for drinks with friends, where do you love to go?

There is a great little local “Kohi bar” on the waterfront with great wines and simple uncomplicated food. Perfect for a chef and many other locals.

The next morning, where to for hangover food?

Assuming the hangover is on a Saturday morning‑it has to be la Cigale markets—the paella is the best.

When friends visit Auckland, where is your first stop?

When we can—the Oyster Inn Waiheke—it has charm, local, Kiwi and international style—if you can combine all of that in a beautiful island inn.

Where do you get your food inspo from?

Food inspiration comes from both dinning out and also my current eating habits—a chef should be a reflection of his craft.

Do you have a mentor, and if so, who?

My mentor is Rainer Becker from London. We first worked together in Tokyo back in 1998 and went on to work 14 years together. He is brutally accurate, arrow-like direct and has an infectious passion for fine hospitality.

What’s your first food memory?

Pan fried yellow belly flounder from the Kiapara harbour. Still the best I say.

When/why did you decide to become a chef?

 It was a conscious decision for hospo but an accident that I fell in love with cooking. I started as a waiter and did a shift in the kitchen by chance - I never looked back.

Worst cooking moment ever?

The first breakfast I cooked for Kelly—corn fritters from tinned corn. The more I heated the fritter the more the water came out and the more the split…let’s just say it was scrambled corn but hey 18 years together…must have been something in the corn.

What’s your go-to comfort dish?

Kelly’s paella—it beats la Cigale by a smidgen.

What’s the best thing about being a chef?

I get to do what I love with a passion every day - whether it be professionally in the restaurants or teaching my kids about how and where their food has come from and how they should respect every ingredient’s integrity.

If you weren’t a chef, what else would you be?

A food photographer…with apologies for the common food element coming through…just love it!

Best cooking skill all people should master?

Soft scrambled eggs…just gently fold over and turn with heat to keep moist.

TUL team are coming for dinner at your house—what will you cook us?  

Hmmm—I think I would roast a chicken that has been marinated in lemon and chilli. Pop in large cauliflower florets with caraway seeds and olive oil…serve with kale salad with grated Parmigiano and almonds.

Find out more details about MASU, including opening hours here. 

Get our top stories direct to your inbox.

Get our top stories direct to your inbox.