Meet: Casey McDonald, Craggy Range

October 09, 2017
Meet: Casey McDonald, Craggy Range

Ahead of the Hawke's Bay Summer F.A.W.C!, we catch up with chef Casey McDonald to talk starting out, streetfood and what makes New Zealand something special.

The Food and Wine Classic Summer Series offers dozens of events around the Hawke’s Bay, with a host of the country’s leading chefs, winemakers and craft beer brewers all scheduled to take part. This November, indulge in 10 days of unparalleled food festivities and a celebration of the region’s finest.

To learn more about this year's line-up, we sat down with head chef of Terroir at Craggy Range, Casey McDonald.

On his involvement with F.A.W.C.!... "Craggy Range has two events on site, the Giants Garden Party held in our Kitchen Garden and the Ladies Lodge Lunch on the bank of the Tukituki River, which I am looking forward to working. I am also doing a master class which will showcase the Terroir house made butter with Waimarama Beach salt and potato fermented bread."

On his big break in food... "My first experience of the industry was working at a fish and chip shop and washing dishes in a café from the age of 13. From there, I washed dishes throughout school and University, until I started my cooking Diploma at Massey University when I was 20 years old."

On what sets New Zealand apart... "I think New Zealand produce rivals the world. The produce is out there, and it’s local, but you need to spend time finding it and building the relationships with the producers to understand how they envisage their products used to get the most from it."

On the best piece of advice he's ever received... "Be patient with your career and slow down to taste what you are doing. Finesse every bit of food on the plate and question everything you are doing."

On the best piece of advice he'd offer a young chef starting out... "Write a good cover letter! When you start in the kitchen, ask questions, take notes and control what you can control. Ensure you have accurate prep lists and research recipes before you make them."

On his favourite dish to cook... "Pasta Carbonara. Simple, but so easy to ruin it and I like the restraint needed to make it perfect."

On his favourite person to cook for... "My wife. She’s honest and will not sugar coat if it is not good enough. You need people like that as a chef."

On his favourite kitchen he's ever worked in… "Cumulus Inc. in Melbourne, it’s open every day for 17 hours a day. The energy required from the staff is huge and the food and service benefit from that environment greatly. Craggy Range is about to embark on a redesign of their kitchen and restaurant at Terroir. I look forward to being part of this experience and creating an environment that is contemporary and allows us to push ourselves as chefs."

Describe your love of food in three words: "Obsession. Commitment. Completeness."

On his best streetfood experience... "Sea urchin, scallops and octopus. They have amazing produce."

On his best fine dining experience... "Daniel in New York or L’Eefervesence in Tokyo."

To learn more about Summer F.A.W.C! or to secure your tickets, simply head over here.