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Meet the Taranaki chef championing the simple comforts of handmade pasta

Renowned chef Carl Maunder and partner Jade Lucas recently swapped Dubai for New Plymouth, where they quickly established themselves on the local dining scene, taking on not one but three restaurants, including the 90s-influence State Bistro. 

When the COVID pandemic hit, Carl Maunder and Jade Lucas were living in Dubai. Maunder, an experienced chef, was heading up Sean Connolly’s new restaurant at the Dubai Opera. Lucas had just found out she was pregnant with her second child. In the space of a couple days, they packed up their life and flew back to New Zealand, arriving the day the country went into its first lockdown.

Living with Maunder’s parents in New Plymouth, the pair had no real plan to stay in the city or open a restaurant there. But a chance run-in with friend and hospitality entrepreneur Craig MacFarlane led them to a new opportunity to buy in on three hospitality businesses on New Plymouth’s ‘State Corner’ in the CBD. They hashed out a deal and a few months later, took charge of Joe’s Garage, Little Glutton and Gover St Bistro.

With Joe’s Garage running smoothly as a franchise, Maunder and Lucas set their sights on transforming the Asian-fusion Little Glutton into a handmade pasta eatery, now named State Pasta. The refit gave Maunder, who had led up a number of new restaurants for other notable chefs, an opportunity to lead his own passion project for the first time. Number one dish on the list? Pasta, of course.

“It’s one of the earliest foods I learned to cook. As well as it being a comfort food, it’s a comforting thing to make. Working with your hands, it’s tactile. I find it quite relaxing – it’s like my happy place.” They built State Pasta in just six weeks, renovating and painting the space, bringing new furniture in, designing the menu and honing in on the brand.

With her background in marketing and communications, Lucas took charge of the brand identity and marketing side. Building the menu gave Maunder an opportunity to bring together all his favourite ingredients he’d collected throughout his travels, as well as finding local New Zealand suppliers, like clams from Blenheim’s Cloudy Bay and macadamias grown up the road in the Kaitake Range.

With a selection of antipasti and homemade pasta served with fresh focaccia and artisan gelato, the menu embraces the comfort of good food, made with simple and quality ingredients. “State Pasta offers a modern approach to the style, while keeping the soul of what makes simple pasta like this so good – care and craftsmanship,” says Maunder.

Beginning his career as a kitchen hand in Wellington, Maunder quickly moved up in the culinary scene, working alongside top chefs such as Simon Gault, Sean Connolly and Mark Hix, and honing his skills in award-winning restaurants in New Zealand, Singapore, London and Australia.

While gruelling work, Maunder says he loves the joy he creates for other people as a chef, a passion nurtured from a young age. “Both my grandmothers were keen cooks and had really good tried and true standards. I loved weekend trips to their house for family dinners, with home baking, Sunday roasts and apple pie,” he recalls.

Quality ingredients were the cornerstone of family cooking, his grandfather a keen gardener who grew tomatoes in a glasshouse. Maunder’s mother, an experimentalist in the kitchen, encouraged him to “give anything a go”, trying new flavours, recipes and cuisines. “This is something I still work on now in the kitchen, with a lot more experience and research though. We bring ideas to life with trial and error, and always give it a go.”

Taking on one new business during a global pandemic, let alone three, is a big undertaking, but Maunder admits he thrives off the pressure. “I’ve always needed a bit of a challenge,” he says, recalling his early days as a chef working long hours in the kitchen at London’s famous celebrity hotspot Le Caprice. “We had a six-week waiting list and were full to the brim every lunch and dinner. It was really intense, I thought ‘am I going to survive this?’ but after a week, I had it down. It taught me to always back myself.”

Now, Maunder has Lucas to back him up as well. It’s the first time they’ve gone into business together and the couple say they enjoy bringing their different skills to the business. “It’s a good dynamic because we’re focused on different parts of the business. Jade’s skill set gives us a good edge in terms of marketing and communications,” says Maunder.

With two young kids, Lucas says she loves not having to keep up the long hours of the corporate world, and instead, focus on building relationships within their three restaurants. “We’re able to work on meaningful things and enjoy working together,” she says. “We get to keep a big slice of family life, which is really what it’s all about.”

The pair have recently refitted another New Plymouth restaurant, State Bistro, previously known as Gover St Bistro. Inspired by the bistros of the late 90s and early 2000s, Maunder wanted to capture the rebellious spirit of his early days in the London culinary scene, while honouring the cooking techniques he learned.

“There’s a huge trend of neo-bistronomy these days, which is great, but I really wanted to get back to the classic dishes and sauce-making techniques, like bouillabaisse, dressed crab and steak tartar,” he says.

The space, with its leather banquettes and marble bar, lends itself to the bistro feel, while the relaxed atmosphere and music pay homage to the rebels and misfits of the kitchen.

“We’re using vinyl records. The kind of music the chefs would be listening to while making the food, not what was in the restaurant. We’re bringing that back of house to the front and celebrating it,” says Lucas. “The clientele these days are people our age. They were the teens of the 90s and we want to reconnect with that. We don’t want to take ourselves too seriously, we want to have fun.”

After years abroad, Maunder and Lucas have relished the opportunity to slow down and enjoy their first summer in New Zealand in a long time. “Seeing the wildflowers when you walk to the beach and hearing the cicadas, all these little things feel very nostalgic after being away,” says Lucas.

“It’s so refreshing to be back among kiwis, people have been so welcoming. It’s something you don’t think about when you’re overseas, but you notice it when you come back.”

Violette named Guerlain’s creative director of makeup

She’s no stranger to the beauty industry, but it’s still somewhat of a surprise makeup artist and influencer Violette has been named Creative Director of Makeup for Guerlain.

The French-born, Brooklyn-­based creative recently launched her own vegan beauty brand Violette_FR, capitalising on her very specific blend of Parisian chic and daring creativity. The small line offers makeup, skin care, fragrance, and haircare products and launched in April. 

However her just-announced new partnership with Guerlain will see her also lend her expertise and ideas to the storied French beauty giant for upcoming releases and makeup collections. On her Instagram she announced the collaboration saying she was ‘humbled and honored’ to have been asked to work with the brand, saying the pairing wouldn’t “take anything away from my own brand, my baby, which is my everything. This new project is an opportunity to spread my creativity, have access to their incredible legacy, and bring me a bit closer to France, a place that fills me with infinite inspiration.”

 

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Violette is bringing significant experience beyond informative and playful Instagram posts and YouTube tutorials to the table, having collaborated with major beauty houses since the beginning of her career including previous successful stints with Dior as a Makeup Designer and more recently with Estée Lauder, where she held the post of Global Beauty Director in 2017 at just 33 years old.

Her appeal has long lay in a relaxed approach to makeup, encouraging her followers to enjoy and experiment, but not to get too caught up in achieving perfection. 

It’s this approach she is bringing to her work with Guerlain, offering a modern touch and innovation to a brand with a more than 190-year history. 

“I’m so happy to be joining an iconic House with such a rich heritage, where I can pass Guerlain’s values in makeup on to a new generation and share it with those who, no matter their gender, celebrate beauty today and will celebrate it tomorrow,” she said in a statement as the collaboration was announced. 

The 37-year old explained her history with the brand saying it “My story with Guerlain is really the story of my femininity.”

“As a little girl, Météorites (Guerlain’s iconic complexion-balancing face powder) with its little pastel-coloured pearls for the complexion had a real aesthetic impact on me. I’d stare at the box fascinated, I couldn’t wait to become a woman. I pictured myself at my dressing table putting on lipstick, perfume and dipping a brush into these incredible Météorites. Today, I’ve been invited to write the next chapter in Guerlain’s history as Director of Makeup. That’s the magic of beauty.”