Since it’s opening in late 2019 Bar Céleste has quickly cemented itself as one of Auckland's most popular hot spots. We chatted with the powerhouse duo behind the restaurant, Emma Ogilvie and Nick Landsman, about everything from kitchen disasters to the handy utensil many home cooks don't have, but should.
Your favourite recipe you cook for yourself?
N: Tartiflette. I've been making it since I was a kid.
The one thing you always have in your fridge?
E: A large amount of butter.
If you could share one piece of cooking knowledge with everyone, what would it be?
N: To not get caught up in following a recipe exactly from start to finish, because at the end of the day good cooking is subjective! If anything - the best way to learn to cook a specific dish or style of cuisine is to read many recipes, to compare techniques, processes and ingredients in order to pick and choose what fits your cooking style and taste best. And above all else, put more energy into sourcing good quality ingredients - it always pays off.
Can you recall the moment when you knew you wanted to pursue a career in food?
N: I probably should have started my career as a chef earlier, I was a passionate home cook that didn't want to turn and eventually lose my passion by making it a job. Fortunately Emma pushed me to realise that I could have the best of both worlds, and we both decided around the same time while living in Paris about three years ago that we both wanted to work with food.
Your go-to dinner party meal?
E: We always start off with an apero - a nice cheeseboard or a little amuse bouche that takes away a little of the pressure of a hungry crowd. Then it's usually something slow and homely in winter like a lovely beef cheek and mash, or something fresh in summer; a simple seafood platter, poisson cru, whole artichoke or good tomatoes with vinaigrette. We like to draw it out and our friends often think it's over, before the next dish comes out haha.
Who is your food hero?
N: Fergus Henderson. I'm both French and English, and I love how St John kind of links these two cuisines for me in a way. Our food is definitely inspired by the classic simplicity of restaurants like St John, pared-back and making the most of undervalued ingredients in a convivial way.
What music, if any, do you like to listen to while cooking?
N: When I'm cooking at home, it's usually a Sunday and Queen will be on.
Biggest kitchen disaster?
N: For our first popup in Paris, we were up cooking until 4am as I finished work at 12am and was able to use our work kitchen. I had timed the lamb shanks so that I could turn off the oven and leave them to finish cooking in the heat and cool down in there. It was a big mistake as when we arrive back at 8am the lamb was dried out and burned on top. We made it work with almost half of it lost, and have never left anything like that to chance again.
Your guilty pleasure?
E: Anything fried. A fat burger and french fries.
In all your travels, where have you experienced the best food (and what was it)?
E: We were lucky to eat some amazing food and such quality produce in Paris, it really is such an amazing city for eating food by great chefs and often at really reasonable prices. Otherwise we would say Italy is amazing for fresh produce, great seafood and to die for cured meats. And Portuguese food is so rustic and delicious, a favourite too.
Is there one cookbook you go back to time and time again?
N: Nose to Tail 1 and 2 by Fergus Henderson.
The kitchen utensil you can't live without?
E: I've learned from Nick that a good knife and a decent sized chopping board does a lot of the job! But one thing a home cook might not have is a microplane - super useful to have at home!
You're currently craving?
E: Grazing through the summer on fresh veges, cheeses, cured meats, raw fish, oysters and all other yummy things. Craving the graze and laze rather than anything in particular!
Any advice to new cooks?
N: Passion, patience and a lot of hard work go a long way in good cooking. Also for new chefs - to not be short-sighted, I think a view of the long run and setting goals for yourself is important for pro chefs and it's not something we're all good at. You have to have a thick skin and believe in yourself.