There's a well kept secret in Takanini, half an hour southeast of central Auckland, and it's one that has been kept between chefs and local neighbours until relatively recently. From the outside, it's simply a warehouse signposted 'Sous Chef', but inside a small but perfectly formed showroom and test kitchen is a treasure trove of exotic European and Antipodean produce.
It all began when chef Simon Gault (famous for his successful restaurant empire and television appearances) returned from living in Italy a number of years ago, and wanted to use the same high quality Italian parmesan he had become accustomed to. He simply picked up the phone and called his Italian friends, getting them to send a wheel across the world. It didn't take long for other New Zealand chefs to start asking for the number, and soon Simon became known within the industry for having all the right European food supplier contacts.
Fast-forward to today, and he imports an incredibly impressive range of products and even produces his own. He goes to great lengths to find the best version of an ingredient, not only by New Zealand standards, but the best in the world. For example, he's the only supplier in New Zealand with a license to sell Texturas, the brand created by the world's foremost molecular gastronomy restaurant, El Bulli. Fine dining chefs can unleash their scientific creativity with all manner of spherification kits and foaming agents, but there are also sample 'at home' kits, for budding amateur Heston Blumenthals.
For chefs and non-chefs alike, a visit to the store will quickly turn into a global degustation, as in-house chef Desma Anderson (ex Cibo) plates samples of the best pancetta you've ever tried alongside sweet Gorgonzola, globe artichokes complete with stems and beautifully preserved porcini mushrooms. There are even fridges full of meats, fish and seafood, like the finest beef wagyu Simon can get his hands on, popular at his restaurant The Jervois Steak House.
Groups of up to 10 can also book to experience entire cooking demonstrations showcasing the fine ingredients, hosted regularly by Simon, Desma and other guest chefs. Throughout winter, Sous Chef hope to host weeknight masterclasses on comforting dishes like risotto, that serve as a chance for a group of friends to get together, enjoy a complimentary bellini and learn from the professionals. Visit during the day and try the daily soup special, served with freshly baked bread and buffalo butter – it won't stay secret for long!
3/84 Spartan Road
Opening Hours: 7.30am - 6pm (Monday - Friday). Closed Sat/Sun. Open late for cooking demonstrations and events when running, like the Sous Chef Facebook page for updates.
Telephone: (09) 269-6373