At Home With… Vaughan Mabee

April 16, 2020
At Home With… Vaughan Mabee

Amisfield’s executive chef on lockdown life in his central Otago log ‘castle’, and why’s he clocking up serious cred with the neighbours.

Who’s is your bubble?

My son Milton, three; and my mother, who lives in California. She says she comes to visit me but I think she just comes to see Milton. Oh, and my two dogs, Duke the German pointer, and springer spaniel Drake.

Any particular projects over the lockdown period?

I’ve been doing videos on my Instagram live feed of what I am cooking at home, and it’s been quite a hit with families. It’s been fun; it’s given me a bit of action. And I’ve been doing a lot of foraging around my property. There are mushrooms everywhere right now, and just wild things I cook with like herbs. I live up by Moke Lake outside of Queenstown, in a place called Alpine Retreat. My home is a legit hunting log cabin on top of a mountain. There are a few properties up here but you can walk around and see nobody. I don’t normally get a lot of time off, so I’ve been working on my firewood, stocking up. It snowed on the mountains around here last night. Winter is on the way.

What’s been on your reading/movie list?

I’ve been going through my big library of cookbooks. I often do that if I have spare time, even if I have read them before.  I have got addicted to Netflix show Ozark, and I gave Tiger King a go – it’s out control! Of course Milton doesn’t read yet but he loves his bedtime stories. It’s a bonus to have all this time just hanging out with him. I’m teaching him how to forage off the land, picking mushrooms and stuff. It’s a good time. He loves it up here. He thinks he lives in a log castle!

What’s your lockdown larder looking like?

Honestly, I have more food in my house than I’ve ever had in my life. A lot of the people who supply me at work obviously aren’t supplying restaurants right now so they’ve been giving me care packages, whether it’s seafood from Bluff or produce from local organic vegetable growers. I’ve been using these ingredients in my recipes and giving them love on my Instagram. You’ve got to support the Kiwi businesses we use now so they can keep selling to families around town. One of my friends has come up with this idea, ‘My Bluff Bag’ - it’s pretty cool. He delivers to families in Queenstown. He’ll turn up with fresh blue cod and live crayfish and paua, all this fresh kai moana. I’ve had caviar shipped to me from Wellington from Martin Bosley, and there’s a lot of Amisfield wine in the larder right now too. I had a crayfish man drive all the way up from Bluff the other day to deliver me a whole giant bluefin tuna that is like 50kg. I never get that kind of product at home – it’s a rarity we get it at the restaurant. But it’s blue fin season so the guys from Gravity Fishing  dropped it off at my house. It took me about an hour to break it all down. I’ve been dropping a Vac-pac bag at the top of my driveway and when people go by, I’ve been saying ‘hey, grab some bluefin!’ The neighbours are stoked.

Who’s doing the cooking?

Mum’s doing some, I’m doing some. Every now and then my son will get on the pans. I will tell him what to do. I’m training him up so he can work for me when he’s five – you gotta train them early!

What’s the first thing you are looking forward to after lockdown?

Me and a small handful of friends go to Craigmore and Timaru every year to hunt pheasant with our hunting dogs. The opening day for shooting got cancelled so I really want to go bird hunting – duck season is coming. Me and my friend Mario are going to get a deer, too, so we can stock our freezers with venison for the year. And I can’t wait to get back in my kitchen. We’ve got a few projects we’re working on for reopening when we can. Everyone’s keen. We want to get back in the mix, whether it’s doing takeaways for families, or whatever. Like every restaurant in New Zealand, we’re taking it day by day. I’ve witnessed a lot of chefs in restaurants around the country doing some really cool things, even before level 4 - people being innovative and changing their practices to help people with food. It’s cool because it feels so Kiwi, you know?