Lilian chef Otis Gardner Schapiro shares his favourite international restaurants

A year working in three very different cities at top restaurants gave chef Otis Gardner Schapiro plenty of food for thought when it came to the menu at his osteria Lilian. He shares some of his discoveries.

Otis Gardner Schapiro is the chef behind the simple yet inviting food at Auckland hot spot Lilian, creating dishes that are well-executed and full of flavour without being too fussy. Prior to crafting the menu at the osteria, Gardner Schapiro spent a year cooking and tasting some of the world’s finest cuisine, completing stages at top restaurants in Mexico City, San Francisco and Copenhagen. Gardner Schapiro discovered some fabulous places to dine during his time abroad and he shares his favourites in the three cities with STYLE.

Mexico City

Gardner Schapiro worked 16-hour days with dozens of chefs at Pujol and Quintonil in Mexico, two restaurants on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. It was an experience he unsurprisingly describes as being totally “full on”.


“To be honest, most of the time I just ate off the street in Mexico City, at all the street vendors,” confesses Gardner Schapiro. When you’re working without pay, it makes sense to make the most of the city’s incredible selection of 20 cent tacos. “Four or five of them can fill you up, so you can eat for about a dollar a time.”


Contramar is a Mexico City seafood institution famous for its tuna tostadas. Gardner Schapiro praises the restaurant for the freshness of its seafood, with only fish and shellfish caught on the day making it onto the restaurant’s plates.


Máximo Bistrot was founded by chef Eduardo García and his wife Gabriela with sustainability in mind. Gardner Schapiro says the meal he enjoyed there was very well-executed, with the menu showcasing local produce from. “It’s classic French bistro food with Mexican ingredients and touch of Mexican flair.”

Pizza from BÆST in Copenhagen.


“It’s incredibly expensive,” says Gardner Schapiro of Copenhagen, which tied for seventh on The Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2019 Worldwide Cost of Living Survey. It has an innovative restaurant scene that’s worth encountering, and Gardner Schapiro discovered some go-tos while working at Noma.


BÆST is a pizza restaurant and wine bar that Gardner Schapiro says is similar to what they do at Lilian. It’s part of a diverse group of Copenhagen restaurants owned by the celebrated Michelin-starred, ex-Noma chef Christian Puglisi.


This Italian restaurant and wine bar serves food until late, taking last orders at 1am or 2am depending on the day. “It’s a real hospo hangout,” says Gardner Schapiro. “You go there after work and it will be full of chefs.” It boasts an impressive wine list too. “Matched wine is really big over there.”


“Everyone knows Noma I guess – but it’s pretty amazing,” says Gardner Schapiro of the restaurant ranked second in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. It’s almost $1000 for the menu with paired wine, but he was fortunate to eat there for free.

Monk fish liver torchon with turnip and apple from Benu in San Francisco. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

San Francisco

Originally from San Francisco himself, Gardner Schapiro returned to his hometown during his year overseas to work at Michelin-starred sister restaurants State Bird Provisions and The Progress, and three-Michelin-starred Benu helmed by highly-revered chef Corey Lee.


“Whenever I go to San Francisco, I always go to El Gallo Giro,” says Gardner Schapiro. It’s a family-owned and operated taco truck in the Mission District. He urges visitors not to be put off by the “weird” offerings such as beef tongue tacos. “They are really delicious.” Plus, each taco is $1.50.


Michelin-starred restaurant Mister Jiu’s is on Gardner Schapiro’s list for its refined Chinese food. In the heart of America’s oldest Chinatown, chef and owner Brandon Jew adds a Californian touch to Cantonese classics.


Gardner Schapiro was lucky enough to sample the cuisine while working at this restaurant which makes the list of the world’s top 50 restaurants. “That’s probably one of the best meals I’ve ever had,” he says, referring to the famous lobster coral xiao long bao.


With wood-fired pizza on the Lilian menu, Gardner Schapiro tried to “eat as much pizza as possible”. He looked to the mobile pizzeria-turned-restaurant for inspiration.

Our Favourite Spring Beauty Must-Haves

The change in seasons is the perfect time to overhaul your beauty routine. To make navigating the beauty world easier this season, we’ve rounded up a handful of our favourite beauty must-haves that we’re using this spring.

With a blend of native New Zealand actives including mamaku, kawakawa and manuka honey combined with 5% vitamin B5, Sans [ceuticals] new Superdose Sleep Infusion Masque, $75, aims to soothe inflammation and boost hydration and repair environmental damage. Designed to apply in a generous layer before bed, it doesn’t need rinsing, so is an easy, intensive treatment for stressed and very dry skin.

Like a holiday in a bottle, Narciso Eau Neroli Ambree, 50ml EDT $143, is a fresh, luminous new perfume that is both alluring and light. As with all Narciso fragrances, a heart of soft musc is updated and decorated with top notes of neroli, orange blossom and frangipani and a base of woody notes with hints of amber.

Guerlain Abeille Royale Advanced Youth Watery Oil, $171, is a unique new arrival to Guerlain’s age-defying Abeille Royale collection that hinges on key ingredients made from bee products, an area devoted significant research by the French beauty giant. It’s an incredibly nourishing yet light serum hybrid with a unique texture that offers the richness of an oil, the lightness of a lotion and the power of a serum. Made from 95% naturally-derived ingredients it contains a number of different types of honey as well as royal jelly, each chosen for their repairing properties in order to deliver smooth radiant and plump skin. 

Dior is extending its divine Rouge Dior lipstick line with a collection of coloured balms with 95% natural origin ingredients. The lightweight hydrating Rouge Dior Natural Balms, $66 each come in satin, matte and metallic finishes and offer a soft veil of low-key colour. Retail inserts are also available to minimise packaging waste. They are available from September 12.

Mecca’s affordable house brand named Mecca Max has moved into skincare with a concise range of simple options that don’t cost the earth but offer useful solutions to skin challenges. Among the cleanser, acne treatments and mask is the Watercooler Calming Hydration Serum, $28, a suits-everyone vitamin-rich serum that will help boost the moisture content of skin and keep it in great condition. It also contains probiotics that help keep skin balanced and protect its natural protective barrier. 

From the just-landed Rare Beauty line, the Stay Vulnerable Melting Blush, $39, is a cream blush that can be blended into cheeks with your fingers and gives a fresh healthy flush that looks flattering and natural whether you’re wearing other makeup or not. 

From L-R: Sans [ceuticals] Superdose Sleep Infusion Masque;  Narciso Eau Neroli Ambree; Guerlain Abeille Royale Advanced Youth Watery Oil; Dior Rouge Dior Natural Balm; Mecca Max Skin Watercooler Calming Hydration Serum; Rare Beauty Stay Vulnerable Melting Blush in Nearly Apricot.