Gareth Stewart loves chefs. It’s just as well: as executive chef of Nourish Group he oversees 11 restaurants of vastly different stripes including Auckland big names Euro, Andiamo and Soul and pubs, cafés and steakhouses across Wellington, Auckland, Taupō and Queenstown, which means he has more than 100 kitchen staff under his guidance. “I love being around food and chefs, I like talking about food, I love the sound and smells of the kitchen, I love the banter. If I didn’t love it, it would be a really shit job.”

Though he tries to spend as much time in the kitchen as possible it’s sometimes a case of ‘the better you are, the less you do’. Recently, however, if you’d popped your head around the kitchen door you would have found Gareth pot-washing at Andiamo and vac-packing parmesan cheese for food boxes. These are the topsy-turvy times that have given hospitality businesses such a shake up.

Of the lockdown period Gareth says, “While everyone was at home in pyjamas our chefs were in the kitchen working.” And what they were sweating over was My Nourish Kitchen, the newest comer in the field of curated food-box delivery services. What sets this apart is that it draws from the menus of four of the group’s most popular restaurants, so you might open your box to Taupō eye fillet with beef cheek from Jervois Steak House, spaghetti and meatballs from Andiamo, roasted blue warehou from Euro or beef short rib ragù from Soul. Customers appreciate the chance to try cooking dishes they wouldn’t normally make, they like that there is enough (but not too much) for them to get involved in doing and that it doesn’t leave them with lots of leftover ingredients, doesn’t make a mess and won’t break the bank.

Having trained in some of the UK’s top kitchens, Gareth arrived in New Zealand in 2007 so has already seen some big changes in the restaurant scene in that time, not least in his own cooking. “My style has changed completely. I’ve simplified things and now allow the ingredients to do the work for me. I’ve chilled out a bit and I’m more playful. Now I think simplicity is beautiful, ugly is beautiful.” Like many of us who have blown in from far away, he’s knocked out by New Zealand seafood. In Bluff a chef colleague once jumped into the freezing waters coming up with a couple of pāua, bashed them open right there on the rocks and cooked them on a camping stove to eat with white Tip Top bread. “I have never eaten anything so good in my life,” says Gareth.

When he entertains at home or at a friend’s bach, he’ll heap the table with salads, a couple of types of crudo, a shoulder of lamb from the barbecue or fire pit – plenty of food for people to pick and choose. Come Christmas, however, Gareth sticks firmly to the traditions. “I’m an old-school fool, still holding onto childhood British Christmasses.” So that means turkey, carrots, swede, Brussels sprouts (if he can find them) and gravy, but no salads. “But the best part of it all is when, even though I’m already stuffed, I manage a turkey sandwich crammed with leftover roast potatoes. So bad, but so good.”

Gareth’s looking forward to summer entertaining with the recipes here. “The sun’s out, so have some beautiful wine, get your mates over and just cook some good food, simply. You enjoy your dinner party without too much time in the kitchen and you do less work and less washing up.” And if you want even less work, these dishes feature in our new Banquet Box from My Nourish Kitchen. TRACY WHITMEY

 

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