“You have to respect the ingredients first and foremost,” says The Hunting Lodge’s executive chef Des Harris, as he handles a piece of Silver Fern Farms pasture-raised venison, delicate in flavour. “You don’t want to stress the protein you are dealing with. You want to cook it gently.” With an impressive cooking career working in kitchens like Clooney and Logan Brown Restaurant, Harris’s intelligence and passion makes him a stand-out on the Auckland restaurant scene. Listening to him talk about ingredients, you can’t help but listen – and try his dishes.
When Harris started his career he had the fundamentals and learnt the basics such as dressing a salad and seasoning. “I knew to succeed I really had to step-up my knowledge like understanding the palate. I wanted to learn how to shape my palate, and at Clooney there always had to be a dramatic edge, but I kept the fundamentals.”
This constant learning and building on a well-crafted knowledge base has seen Harris share his expertise with others, and when we visit The Hunting Lodge he makes it clear it’s as much about chef Asher Abramowitz. “The owners have got a vision for the property, which is awesome. My role here is to facilitate the growth. We’ve got lots of plans. The site is well and truly big enough for us all to have some space,” he says. “The way I look at food is different now. I’m less interested in how it looks than how it tastes.”
Smart Fact: The Hunting Lodge has a philosophy around garden-to-fork and sustainability, which has brought the restaurant back to life, alongside the cellar door and winery.
The Hunting Lodge, 307 Waikoukou Valley, Waimauku. thehuntinglodge.com