Decadent ice cream, sorbet and granita from Laura Greenfield of Wellington’s Field & Green, including the scoop on her £3 million dessert.

Like many events in recent times, the awards ceremony of the Felix Wellington Hospitality Awards 2021 took to a virtual platform, with most of Wellington’s hospitality workers joining via a live stream. So when Laura Greenfield of Field & Green was announced as Outstanding Chef of 2021, she and her partner Raechal Ferguson were at home on the sofa in their pyjamas. Thank goodness there were no Oscar-style Zoom acceptance speeches, then. “Oh, I’m far too cool for the Oscars,” she says, tongue firmly in cheek. “I was really chuffed and not expecting it at all. I really didn’t think I had a chance,” Laura says, after being nominated three times now, and being up against talent such as Kelda Hains of Rita, Shepherd Elliott of Shepherd and Matt Hawkes of Mason. “I really feel good and I’m happy that it’s the hospitality people of Wellington who voted for me.”

So what next for a chef who is recognised by her peers as at the pinnacle of Wellington’s vibrant and competitive hospitality scene? Well, next morning she was back at the restaurant, folding cardboard and sorting laundry.

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“In Wellington, people don’t care how old you are, or what you look like, it’s whether you’re a good person that counts. It’s not like in London,” she says. And she should know, having cooked in London for 20 years, before coming to New Zealand in 2014, opening Field & Green in 2015 with herself in the kitchen and Raechal running the business side.

At Field & Green, Laura cooks European soul food, drawing on her Jewish background and exploring the diaspora-driven strands of cuisines that spread as wide as Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, Morocco, the Middle East and India.

We’re talking not long after the wrap-up of Bar Salonika, Field & Green’s pop up for Wellington On a Plate 2021, inspired by the city known as the Jerusalem of the Balkans. The capital’s premier food festival gives the Field & Green team an annual opportunity to run their imagination wild with a month-long theme digging deeper into the varied cuisines that have flourished along the migratory pathways of the Jewish community. Each pop up starts with an idea and a cookbook. For Bar Salonika it was Cookbook of the Jews of Greece by Nicholas Stavroulakis, first published in 1986 and a real find from an Athens bookshop. While the book sowed the seeds of the 26 dishes on Bar Salonika’s meze menu, Laura added her own “bits and pieces” to dishes such as beef and matzo pie, fish in rhubarb sauce and Sephardic stuffed vine leaves. Today, Field & Green has a reputation for its stellar ice-cream selection with flavours developed by Laura along with sous chef Sam Stott. If you are up to it, the chef’s bar menu option finishes with a dégustation of ice cream – the opportunity to try as many flavours as you wish (yes, some people manage all 18 flavours). But one favourite flavour harks back to Laura’s days as head chef at renowned fine-art auction house, Sotheby’s. There, her marmalade ice cream was always on the menu, and was credited with winkling a £3m commission from a tricky customer. The story goes that one day the head of Old Masters was lunching a client, but fees were a sticking point. To end the stalemate the dealer said, “I’ll order you a dessert: if you like it we’ll do it my way; if you don’t, then you win.” One scoop of Laura’s marmalade ice cream later and Sothebys had the £3m fee tied up. TRACY WHITMEY