Ahead of the Hawke's Bay Summer F.A.W.C!, we catch up with chef Hayden Esau, to talk working with Peter Gordon, cutting your teeth in Europe and giving it your all in the kitchen.
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 Milk and Honey, Hayden Esau.
Tell me about your involvement with F.A.W.C?
"We take part in all the F.A.W.C. events. It’s always a bit of fun and great promotion for the Hawke’s Bay food scene."
How did you get your start in the food industry?
"I did my training at U.C.O.L in Palmerston North, straight out of high school."
You grew up in rural New Zealand – what was it like making the move to a city like London?
"It was great. I always wanted to travel and all the great restaurants in Europe were a big drawcard. I read Peter Gordon's Sugar Club cookbook cover-to-cover so many times when I started out cooking. Working at The Providores and Tapa room was amazing. Peter is the greatest guy you’ll ever meet. He always has time for you and his food knowledge is amazing. I got to work with some amazing Kiwi chef’s in his kitchen, Hamish Brown (Roka restaurant), Miles Kirby (Caravan Restaurant, Bar and Coffee Roastery), Cameron Knox (Tok Tok)."
What do you think sets the culinary and hospitality industry apart here in New Zealand?
"Our willingness to be open to new ideas and ingredients. Since we’re such a young country we don’t have so many dyed-in-the-wool traditions. I think that’s why we see some great kiwi chefs cooking fusion food."
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received, when coming up through the ranks?
"Don’t make excuses. It’s okay to make mistakes, just own up to it, move on, and don’t do it again."
What do you enjoy most about New Zealand food and wine festivals?
"I love the sense of community amongst the chefs. Especially in Hawke’s Bay, It’s always a fun time out of the restaurants working with your peers.
What advice would you offer a young Kiwi chef looking to make a start in the industry?
"Find the best chef you can work under, and work, HARD."
What’s your favourite dish to cook and why?
"I’m a big fan of a good steak on the barbecue, with some grilled asparagus, and a glass of Pinot Noir
Best street food?
"The smell of spiced meat cooking over coals in the Jamaa el Fna in Marrakech, Morocco. I think about it every time I light a barbecue."
Best fine dining?
"It’s hard to go past the menu at The Fat Duck. Along with classic technique, it’s just so much fun. "
To learn more about Summer F.A.W.C! or to secure your tickets, simply head over here.