Do you have a favourite memory from having worked at Michelin starred restaurants in the UK?
It’s got to be when we won a Michelin star at my last place in the UK called Johns House. So me and John had been out foraging early morning on the 16th September 2015 and came back to a call phone call off Rebecca Burr from the Michelin guide congratulating us on winning a Michelin star! We had only been open 7 months and there was only two of us in the kitchen at the time no one was excepting it.
What is the ingredient you are most excited about working with in New Zealand?
I think it’s got to be feijoa just as they are just coming into season. They are so unique in flavour. I can’t wait to see what dish we can create using them.
What is your favourite recipe you cook for yourself?
It's got to be me grandma's recipe for Yorkshire puddings for when I’m making a Sunday roast.
What is the one dish you would never remove from The Grove menu?
I can’t see myself keeping one dish on constantly, I get bored very easily so it’s good to keep evolving new dishes. We currently have a concept of using vegetables as a first dessert on our degustation menu which keeps people guessing and intrigued in the menu.
What is the one thing you always have in your fridge?
If you could impart one piece of cooking knowledge to everyone, what would it be?
How to season food correctly. It’s amazing what some salt can do or how some acidity can lift a dish so much.
Can you recall the moment when you knew you wanted to pursue a career in food?
So I never wanted to be a chef at all growing up. I starting playing football and cricket for my county back home and always thought I’d end up carrying on with that. But unfortunately or maybe not, I got injured and couldn’t continue. So I found a love for food, I guess it’s the competitiveness and always wanting to be the best at something which has got me where I am now.
What is your go-to dinner party meal?
Being in New Zealand it’s got to be a proper Kiwi bbq! Lots of homemade burgers, snags and juicy steak.
Who is your food hero?
Obviously there are many chefs I look up to and admire but I wouldn’t say I have a food hero. At the end of the day I believe it’s your own path, your own struggle and your own perception on food. Inspiration comes from everything in the world not just one person.
What music do you like to listen to whilst cooking?
At home something chill like Fleetwood Mac but at work we have some deep house/dance music on to get the guys going.
Biggest kitchen disaster?
So we was doing a private wedding function back in England and the dessert was caramelised apples, meringue and marigold. So we started the apples and realised they wasn’t caramelising only because it was salt not sugar.
Your guilty pleasure?
It’s got to be a late night feed at Wonkok with the guys from work after a few beers.
Is there one cookbook you go back to time and time again?
No not really. I used to work for this one guy called Simon Haigh back in England, he had a Michelin star for about 15 years. He would always try and make us create components to dishes without using recipes trying to teach us how to cook by taste and feel. He would always say every item is always different and never the same so you need to adapt by tasting and understanding what your working with.
The kitchen utensil you can't live without?
Rocher Spoon. It’s not just any spoon. It’s the key to a perfect scoop of ice cream or sorbet.
You're currently craving?
A proper good English Sunday roast with all the trimming
Any advice to new cooks?
At the end of the day it’s always going to be hard work being a chef, but perseverance is key. If it’s something you really have a passion for don’t give up. Keep your head down and learn what you can whilst your young then make it nice.
Here's a message just in from our friends at The Grove:
It's definitely an unprecedented time for the restaurant industry. While going out with friends for dinner or lunch has long been part of New Zealand culture, people are understandably more cautious with the shadow of Covid-19 community transmission looming over us all. Michael and Annette Dearth, owners of The Grove Restaurant and Baduzzi are adapting to face this altered hospitality landscape with some new offerings. "It's a crazy time for sure," says Michael. "Of course we want to keep our businesses afloat but the most important thing has to be the health of our community. We are parents and we know how worried people are about both themselves - and their more vulnerable friends and family - so we are taking a range of measures to adapt and keep people safe.” Some of these measures are similar to other eateries - taking out some tables to give more space, being hyper vigilant about hygiene with single-use menus and increased use of sanitising products. But they are also launching 'The Grove at Home' for groups who want to get together and have kitchen and front of house staff come to their residence, and cook there. "We've done catering in people's homes for many years and we love it. While restaurants are our life, it's also nice to see people enjoying food and good wine in their own environment.” says Annette. “We can do whatever people want, anything they get at the Grove - whether that’s a pre-ordered a la carte meal, our five course degustation with wine, or something custom made for their situation.”