Will you be working Christmas Day this year?
Of course! I’m pretty used to it – I haven’t had Christmas Day off for the past 11 years. And it won’t slowing down any time soon now that I’ve taken over the reins at QT Wellington, as the new executive chef.
What's your favourite dish on the Joyeux Noël menu?
It has to be the Central Otago wild venison loin with cherries and dark chocolate sauce – how Christmassy does that sound? I love playing with traditionally sweet flavours and introducing them into savoury dishes. In fact, this dish was inspired by Bûche de Noël. The richness of the port-soaked morello cherries is balanced by bitter dark chocolate. The sweet and savoury combination complements the unique flavour of our wild venison.
When you’re not working, what do like to eat on Christmas Day?
All the delicious things in season, like oysters and strawberries. Parma ham wrapped rock melon screams Christmas to me. And my honey mustard glazed champagne ham with a glass of wine, just the one glass though!
Do the Hippopotamus staff, who work Christmas Day, get a special meal?
A large number of our team are from around the globe – France, South Korea, Australia, Argentina, and China – so we’re used to not having the luxury of spending the Holiday season at home. But we do have our Hippo family to celebrate with. I’ll be putting on a Christmas spread for my restaurant family this year, they’re just not aware yet. It’s going to be a Christmas surprise!
From start to finish, what’s your idea of the perfect Christmas Day?
I always hope for a sunny day. Starting with a long black, then off to work. I’d arrive to a restaurant and kitchen full of smiles and laughs. Most importantly, I'd head back home to have Christmas supper with the most beautiful woman in the world – my wife.
What’s your all-time favourite festive recipe?
Honey mustard glazed champagne ham
- 7kg whole champagne ham
- 200g Manuka honey
- 200g soft brown Sugar
- 120g hot English mustard
- 120g dijon mustard
- 250ml Chardonnay vinegar
- 550ml water
- 50ml olive oil
- 20g ground coriander
- 20g garlic power
- 25g flaky sea salt
- Pre-heat the oven at 165°C. Place all the glaze ingredients in a bowl and stir gradually until combined.
- Remove the skin, and discard. Score the ham in a criss-cross pattern.
- Place the ham in the tray on a wire-rack. Rub ¼ of glaze on the ham and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Baste the ham with the rest of glaze in 30 minute intervals, three times.
- Place foil over the ham and blind bake for an hour more.
What are your top tips for ensuring Christmas Day runs smoothly?
Preparation, preparation, preparation! Stock up on both food and drinks – you can never have too much. Also, a secret of mine… Having guests without dietary requirements takes a bit of stress away.
What advice to you have for people cooking their first Christmas lunch?
Perfection takes time and effort, keep calm and enjoy the Christmas spirit!