What are your favourite Sabato ingredients? Moretti traditional polenta,  for polenta lovers this is the real deal, it's exactly the same variety as I tasted at Lake Como in Northern Italy, delicious. And Lafitte bloc duck foie gras, the closest indulgent foie experience you'll get in New Zealand, perfect for chunks on toast or made into mousses or butters... on the Vinnies menu at the moment I whisk foie gras in with butter and parmesan to my polenta, then I quickly sear off some prawns to go on top.

What's your favourite thing to cook when you're at home? I used to make risottos at Gualtiero Marchesi, in Milan, a Michelin three star restaurant. Nothing is better than a creamy risotto with Parmigano Reggiano, then I just and any extra treats folded in at the end, spicy sausage, artichokes, seafood.

What makes Vinnies a successful kitchen? Having passion, really enjoying food and loving what you do - I get such a buzz talking with my growers and suppliers, often it is their passion that inspires me to create a new dish.

Best advice for someone wanting to get into a kitchen? When I was 15 years old I had a night's work experience at Harleys restaurant on Anzac Ave, when Jo Seager was at the stoves, it was brilliant. Take the taste test - come into Vinnies for a night or two and see what you think, there is nothing better getting a real taste of what actually happens in the kitchen.

What's your guilty pleasure, food-wise? Top quality imported chocolate coated nougat.

Sweet or savoury? Savoury - fresh live oysters from Te Matuku Bay on Waiheke Island, our guests love the fact the live oysters come over on the afternoon ferry, and are opened by our kitchen team within seconds of ordering.

Where have you travelled that has inspired you the most? France, I was lucky to have trained in Aix en Provence which they told me was the most sexy village in France (I think they might be correct!) - at a little one star Michelin restaurant. The local market there was sexy, very. The man selling all sorts of eggs, the lady with her local ewe's milk cheese, the organic chickens, the local hand made sausages, the baby vegetables, the wild asparagus and local wild herbs, this is what I'm crazy about and strive to serve our unique New Zealand version of this - to our Vinnies guests.

Favourite type of international cuisine? Vietnamese.

Three words that sums up your cooking style? Honest, pure, New Zealand.

What's your ultimate comfort food? My Mum's roast lamb, roast tatties and her simple made in the roasting dish gravy - nothing beats that!

Favourite drink? An elegant New Zealand Chardonnay made in the french style.

How has your cooking style evolved over the years? Without a doubt, it is something that constantly changes and the focus on the menu naturally evolves. I am now cooking with an emphasis on purity, enhancing the flavours and creating dishes with the best quality ingredients, exact cooking technique and brining out the true flavours of the produce.

What's the best thing about NZ food? We have such great quality produce, I am so proud to be able to offer such value to international guests and our customers, we need to pinch ourselves and realise how lucky we really are.

If you weren't a chef what would you be doing? Spending time with my three kids, aged five, three and one... Taking them to the fish market and then to taste all the goodies at Sabato.

What's your signature dish? Wild Fiordland venison loin rolled in chocolate soil, with pickled quince puree, black 'radical' kumara gnocchi (a new organic variety from Dargaville) and a liquorice infused jus - this dish was awarded finalist in the recent Monteith's Beer and Wild Food Challenge.

Favourite tool of the trade? A thin long grater by Microplane for citrus, garlic, ginger, nutmeg and anything else that requires finely chopping or dicing!

What's your favourite seasonal produce? Strawberries, I have a crazy sweet tooth and love the flavour of a ripe rich sweet perfumed strawberry, there is no point waiting till Christmas - amazing strawberry desserts will be on the Vinnies menu from September.

Vinnies Restaurant

166 Jervois Road Herne Bay 1011 Tel (09) 376 5597 view website



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