Otahuna Lodge’s executive chef, Jimmy McIntyre, talks about foraging for mushrooms and cooking for skiers.
Otahuna Lodge, located in Tai Tapu, Christchurch, is a heritage-listed hotel that boasts Queen Anne architecture, a stunning backdrop, an impressive Kiwi art collection and a bountiful kitchen garden.
The Lodge’s executive chef, Jimmy McIntyre, speaks to MiNDFOOD about foraging for mushrooms and what he’d cook for skiing guests.
At what stage in your career did you incorporate the “plot to plate” concept?
It was when I arrived at Otahuna Lodge six years ago. We started growing our own vegetables on the estate in the old stonewalled Clydesdale stallion paddock as well as picking the fruit from the orchard, which gives us four varieties of apples, pears, quince, mulberries, hazelnuts, walnuts and almonds.
Then I found porcini mushrooms growing under the 100-year-old oak trees. Our head gardener Steve has been an inspiration and we regularly talk about what to plant. We now grow shitake and oyster mushrooms.
How hard is it to change the menu daily?
It is incredibly easy as I have been doing it for so long. I seem to have a repertoire which evolves with the seasons and I try and add to that as we progress throughout the year. I just base most dishes around the garden and add a form of protein here and there as necessary.
When and why did you come up with the idea for guests to forage for their own mushrooms?
It happened as soon as we found our first porcini, I decided to take the guests down to the oak trees to help me look for them. It blossomed from there with the addition of oyster mushrooms, field mushrooms and shitake, the latter varieties stretch the “foraging” season as the porcini is really just from February to March.
What does New Zealand have to offer in the way of food?
Almost everything. We just don’t have some of the tropical fruits like pineapple, mango and mangosteens. But we do have avocado, passionfruit and kaffir limes. No foie gras but we have local organic muscovy duck and I also use the livers. Lots of good quality fresh seafood, grass fed beef, lamb, venison. We have come a long way in the last 15-20 years and now can compete with any country for quality produce.
Other than New Zealand, what country has the best cuisine?
Personally I think Italy. Especially for the food culture as almost every family has a good cook.
What is you ideal food and wine match?
Cauliflower soup with salsa verde and a Crater Rim Rata Vineyard Pinot Gris from Akaroa, Canterbury. Also salmon ceviche with a Pegasus Bay Riesling from Waipara, Canterbury. And Taitapu organic muscovy Duck with Waipara Springs Primo Pinot Noir from Waipara, Canterbury.
What do you cook on your days off?
Good, honest, simple food. I love my vegetables.
What ingredient are you loving right now?
Local Goat’s cheese, served with beetroot soup.
Why did you sign on to become Otahuna Lodge’s executive chef?
It was just one hell of an opportunity.
What has changed in the six years that you’ve been there?
The attention to detail has improved and the passion every one has for Otahuna has grown.
Where else have you worked?
Vines, Phloyds, Espresso 124, Tiffany’s all in Christchurch.
If the lodge was completely full of skiing guests, what is the perfect meal you would cook them after a strenuous day out on the slopes?
To start with, Beetroot soup with Chevre. Then Seared Blue Fin Tuna on Lemon and Prawn Risotto. Followed by Braised Otahuna Lamb Shoulder and Pan Roasted Lamb Rack with Roast Kumara and Tapenade Jus. With some Evansdale Farmhouse Brie. And finished off with Vanilla Bean Financier with Otahuna Granny Smith Apple Sorbet.
The famous white Bianchetto truffle will feature in a series of five-course degustation dinners in August, devised by McIntyre. For more information visit the Otahuna Lodge website.