Chef Ben Bayly, the man behind the deliciousness of Ahi, Aosta, Little Aosta, The Grounds and Ahi Gardens, will soon be gracing our screens again with a second season of A New Zealand Food Story, a show in which he travels the country unearthing fascinating stories behind some of New Zealand’s finest produce.
He also has an exciting new eatery in the pipeline – Origine at Commercial Bay. “We are opening a new French bistro in August which is super-exciting. Back in my early cheffing years I lived in France for four years and loved it. [The bistro] is a business partnership with Chris Martin, from Ahi, and his French wife Lucile, and we are assembling an amazing team.”
In the meantime, though, we have a poke around Ben’s kitchen to find out how this lauded Kiwi chef cooks and eats at home.
My kitchen at home is… big and open. We have no front door; they are a waste of space. At our place you enter through the back door and into the kitchen, like my Granny and Grandad’s in Hamilton, and as I travelled, I found Italians do it the same way.
Things you’ll always find in our fridge are… butter, our chickens’ eggs, some form of yoghurt and blueberries in the freezer. And always avocados, I eat an avocado a day. We always have sauerkraut in the fridge too.
Some of my pantry staples are… we only have good-quality New Zealand-made cold-pressed oils, such as Village Press olive oils, hemp seed oil, sunflower and canola to cook with. I have been researching hot extruded oils and they are not something we should be eating daily.
My favourite ingredient to cook with is… I love fish preparation, it’s so technical and every fish is slightly different. We don’t have it often, but when we do, we roast the fish in butter, hero-ing it in its simplicity, and the kids love it.
The kind of dishes I most love to make… I love cooking anything in situ, building a fire and cooking the ingredient where it has been harvested. You see this on the show, A New Zealand Food Story 2 lots, giving the ingredient a pressure test and enjoying it in the great outdoors.
My go-to in a hurry is… fried eggs in a toasted tortilla and hot sauce, roll it up and it’s good to go. Yum!
And if friends stop by unexpectedly… we just do the “ready steady cook” vibe. We always have a bolognese in the freezer and pasta in the pantry. We have a large vegetable garden too, which helps.
My drink of choice is… I have had a year off the booze and I’m still going; I love my wife’s kombucha. It looks like champagne when you put it in the right glass too!
Something unexpected I make from scratch is… not me, but I am so proud that my wife Cara makes awesome sourdough every day, so we never need to buy bread at home.
I cook at home… pretty much every time I’m home at night. The kids are getting older now, so they have to help! New to the menu in our house is a dish we call “The Warwick” which is named after Warwick Mitchell who we met in episode 1 of A New Zealand Food Story. We cook venison back strap steaks, crumbed in Cara’s leftover sourdough and then we fry them – the kids love it. It’s a great way to introduce kids to game.
My least gourmet food pleasure is… I love porridge, but I quickly make it gourmet with a big spoon of high UMF manuka honey, some blueberries from the freezer and a lug of cream… divine!
My favourite place to eat right now is… Cassia in Fort Lane. Love it.
The kitchen gadget everyone should own is… not really a gadget, but everyone should have a great knife and learn to keep it sharp, nothing more satisfying.
My food philosophy is… It’s funny, now I’m in my 40s everything centres around “is this food good for me”? I try to make informed food choices, so I like to deeply know the ingredient and make everything from scratch.
A New Zealand Food Story airs Saturdays at 4.30pm on TVNZ 1. Watch previous episodes on TVNZ OnDemand.