Trent Watson, Head Chef at Queenstown's No5 Church Lane, tells us about his love for bacon and egg pies, plus the punk rock atmosphere he loves to bring to the kitchen.
Your favourite recipe you cook for yourself?
No doubt the humble bacon and egg pie – a favourite of mine I will eat at any time of day.
The one thing you always have in your fridge?
There’s always a beer waiting for me after a long shift.
If you could impart one piece of cooking knowledge to everyone, what would it be?
Cook what you love. If you care about what you’re doing everything tastes better – that’s a fact.
Can you recall the moment when you knew you wanted to pursue a career in food?
I started working in kitchens when I was young and while it was hard going, the comradery had me hooked. I have many fond memories of drinking with the kitchen crew – doesn’t happen so much these days but we find other ways to keep it fun!
What dish always reminds you of home?
That would have to again be the bacon and egg pie – a Kiwi classic.
Your go-to dinner party meal?
A New Orleans style Jambalaya. Not only does it feed the masses and is a crowd favourite but it also has the added benefit of being something a little unexpected.
Who is your food hero?
Anthony Bourdain as he forged a lifestyle that goes well beyond the four walls of a kitchen and is known even by those who don’t like to cook.
What music, if any, do you like to listen to while cooking?
Punk rock brings the right kind of atmosphere delivering all the motivation needed for a tough stint in the kitchen.
Biggest kitchen disaster?
There truly are too many to recall – from cuts, scrapes and burns to serving up the wrong dish. Chefs aren’t perfect (but we try to be)!
Your guilty pleasure?
Fried chicken. I try to avoid it because once you start it’s hard to stop!
In all your travels, where have you experienced the best food (and what was it)?
Some of the best food I’ve ever eaten has been in Japan. My wife and I spent a month in Tokyo last year - we’ve visited plenty of times and always find ourselves back there. It’s an amazing country and as a chef I’m really inspired by the cuisine which has such precision and purity of flavours, prepared with techniques that have been perfected over generations. Dishes are uncomplicated and highlight the best of each ingredient used, my all-time favourite being the okonomiyaki.
Is there one cookbook you go back to time and time again?
The first edition of Saffron: Food from the Central Otago Heartland. It really informs what I do at No5 with the huge focus we place on locally sourced ingredients. It provides all the inspiration needed.
The kitchen utensil you can't live without?
A Japanese steel knife. I picked one up on my travels and haven’t looked back since. There’s a certain level of precision you just can’t achieve with any other knife.
You're currently craving?
Coffee – always! A chef works long hours so staying caffeinated is imperative (at least it is for me!).
Any advice to new cooks?
Practice makes perfect so get cooking!