What is your favourite recipe you cook for yourself?
At the moment a pasta dish, Cacio e Pepe (cheese and pepper). I’m still playing with various recipes and perfecting, but generally it is something delicious using fresh or dried pasta.
The one thing you always have in your fridge?
It’s not only what I have in the fridge, it’s probably what I always have in the garden.
Home life - most of our land has been turned into a potager garden, so we have lots of plant-based beds of herbs, seasonal produce and edible fruit hedges. The food I cook tends to be based around freshness, so herbs and vegetables are vital.
Back to the question: What do I always have in my fridge? I’m a bit naughty in that aspect as I generally decide what I want to eat two hours before dinnertime, which requires a shopping trip.
Generally, though, there is always: Lurpak butter – usually four tubs! Daily Organics Kombucha. Wine.
If you could impart one piece of cooking knowledge to everyone, what would it be?
Respect your ingredients. Keep it simple. Keep it well executed. Keep it delicious.
If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Dad used to go out and catch snapper at Russell in the Bay of Islands before we all woke up, then Mum would fillet it, lightly flour it and cook it gently in butter for breakfast…can’t get better than that - breakfast, lunch or dinner!
Can you recall the moment when you knew you wanted to pursue a career in food?
I cooked from an early age – so early that I couldn’t reach the elements of the electric hobs; I was always burning my wrists. From those days I always knew I would be a cook or a teacher, and to this day I think I am both. Many said, “get a job in the Navy and learn how to cook”. The thought petrified me. So I was accepted to teachers’ college at the tender age of 18…then dropped out! One and a half years later I started to look for my dream job in hospitality.
Your go-to dinner party meal?
I host a few dinners at home every year for special occasions. Being in the public eye, serving so many guests a week and having around 38 employees means home life is a sanctuary.
My go-to is always a shared feast, something on the barbecue, grain-based salads and hot vegetable salads. There are usually lots of photos taken and lots of Instagramming.
The one thing you can never take off the Loretta menu?
There are a few things that come to mind:
Parmesan crumbed chicken schnitzel and watercress aioli. Green eggs: fried eggs with French tarragon gremolata in season, or parsley gremolata out of season. Our Croque Madame and our grain-based salads.
Who is your food hero?
Lois Daish. Finding my feet after dropping out of teachers’ college, I worked at a few places, but nothing felt right! At the age of 20 I discovered Brooklyn Café and Grill, owned by Lois Daish. I thought to myself ‘This is where I want to work!’ It took me a while to get a foot in the door; when I succeeded, I never looked back. I started as a section waiter, then maître d’, then baker, combining all the roles in a working week. Lois’ simplicity, deliciousness and workplace culture inspired me to be who I am today! She always says she was grateful for my energy and making Brooklyn succeed. Lois taught me respect and simplicity. Many say Loretta is a modern-day Brooklyn Café and Grill. Flattered!
What music, if any, do you like to listen to while cooking?
If I’m dancing, I’m on the vodka! Not often these days.
Biggest kitchen disaster?
Basil pesto. I was talking about this just the other day - every summer we used to make basil pesto to store for the months ahead, buying in at least 30kg of basil from Epicurean supplies in the Hawkes Bay. It was a big task picking it all, grating all the parmesan, roasting the nuts (it took a week at least), then it was processing time. One month later it all fermented in the back of the chiller and had to be binned! #fail
Your guilty pleasure?
I have a sweet/lolly drawer in the pantry. Usually I hate sweet things, but occasionally there is a need or a want! Usually when I head to it, the husband has eaten what I had saved…
In all your travels, where have you experienced the best food (and what was it)?
London - The River Café, such an inspiration. San Fran – if I could move there tomorrow and open a restaurant I would! It’s been amazing to hear of late how much Loretta would fit right in to the Californian cuisine.
Is there one cookbook you go back to time and time again?
I have so many cookbooks they have started taking over the house, with piles 30-high next to my desk. Nigel Slater’s are the cookbooks of choice.
The kitchen utensil you can't live without?
It’s not so much about the utensil, but also other elements in the kitchen that help to bring dishes from kitchen to table. Firstly, my Peter Lorimer knife collection – I have 10. They are truly bespoke pieces that I will have for life, along with a six-piece steak knife set. Secondly, as you know I’m a big fan of earthenware and ceramics. Paul Melser’s pottery was a game-changer when I started using it for the restaurant and at home. I’m truly proud to have helped bring pottery into vogue again. My other favourite potter is Laurie Steer.
Thirdly, I’m probably the only man in the word who owns three KitchenAid mixers, a classic white, a copper one that I bought in London and carried on the Tube (which is now in storage), and my limited edition matt black No.415 out of 500 in the world - my true favourite.
You're currently craving?
Delicious tasty food, “the taste of summer” as I would say! Winter is my worst season for creativity and inspiration. Once spring arrives (and the first of the asparagus), my passion for food and creativity seems to excel once again.
Any advice to new cooks?
Whether you call yourself a cook or a chef it doesn’t matter, as long as you have the passion. I still don’t call myself a chef; I am a cook with a huge amount of passion, more so I am a restaurateur, working incredibly hard to survive and succeed in hospitality. It’s not an easy game; there are so many highs, with probably an equal amount of frustrations. My biggest advice is that if you want to cook for a living, have the passion for food and produce, then respect it and treat it with love. The end product that you serve to a guest or eat yourself will only be the best if you have the passion and respect for your ingredients.
181 Cuba St, Te Aro, Wellington 6011
Phone: 04-384 2213
Find Marc on Instagram: @mwdelicious
Find Loretta on Instagram: @lorettaoncuba