An Evening with GIOVANNI & ALESSANDRO in Wakatipu Grill

I have a confession! At the start of the evening, I popped into the kitchen and asked Chef Giovanni Pilu which Chef was responsible for each of the courses. I just love hanging out with Chefs. I really do. Just think about why someone would want to cook for a living. It’s because they are generous and nurturing, because they want to feed people. And this bunch of Chefs (all of whom I know) are just that – generous with their time and generous with their food.

This time however, my conversation with Chef Giovanni Pilu, was not in his restaurant Pilu at Freshwater. We were standing in the kitchen of the Wakatipu Grill, Queenstown Hilton for a special dinner: AN EVENING WITH GIOVANNI & ALESSANDRO IN WAKATIPU GRILL. And I’d flown over to Queenstown especially for the dinner. Alessandro, as you will probably guess, is Alessandro Pavoni from Ormeggio and Spiedo. Joining him in New Zealand were Head Chefs and co-owners Federico Zanellato (Ormeggio) and Fulvio Lancione (Spiedo). Giovanni was joined on the evening by Chefs from Pilu at Freshwater.

The team from the Hilton Queenstown’s signature restaurant Wakatipu Grill is led by one of New Zealand’s most acclaimed Chefs, Peter Thornley, with Wakatipu Grill Head Chef Mauro Battaglia.

Can you guess which Chef created each course?



Beef tartare marinated with mirto, rye bread crostini, truffled abbamele
Sheep milk baked ricotta, roasted pine nuts, candied citrus
Scampi crudo, squid ink mayonnaise, freeze dried mandarin
Potato chips, scallops carpaccio, sour cream, sea urchin, chives

Marlborough King Salmon crudo, baby leaves, bottarga dressing, saffron potato, crispy Sardinian bread crumbs
Accompanied by Mt Difficulty Dry Riesling 2010

Squid ink stracci, salt baked Marlborough King Salmon, peas and marjoram
Accompanied by Mt Difficulty Chardonnay 2009

Tiramisu of baccala
Accompanied by Mt Difficulty Pinot Gris 2011

Venison loin, shoulder civet, fruit loaf puree, Tuscan cabbage, red radish
Accompanied by Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir 2008

Araguini chocolate, mascarpone cream, almond gel, espresso meringue, mandarin gelato

Giovanni Pilu was really excited when we talked at the beginning of the evening, excited about the salmon farms the Chefs had been visiting, excited about what they had learnt. When he later spoke during the dinner, he spoke with passionate conviction about the need for us as consumers to celebrate local produce, to use it, to cook with it, to eat it – and not to use out of season produce imported from the other side of the world. I applauded loudly.

Later, he joined our table and shared some of the details of his dishes that I’d loved. The Regal salmon was moist and lush and deep with flavour. He’d used a salt crust to bake it, he said, then tossed the oil that had seeped out back into the flesh before serving it. Like all the dishes of the evening, each ingredient was cooked to perfection, and the sum of the parts – each dish as well as the flow of the menu through the night – was even better than perfect.

When you eat fantastic, fresh seasonal food, and enjoy lovely matched wine, in a beautiful setting with a gorgeous lake view, what could possibly top that? Last night, at the Wakatipu Grill, it was indeed topped, by the very best thing of all, watching the talented and creative teams from five restaurants work together, with no egos, in harmony and with generosity of spirit, to lift this beautiful food from an earthly pleasure to a divine gift from heaven. Thank you Chefs!

And thank you to the Queenstown Hilton for having me as a guest for this very special dinner.

Queenstown Hilton Wakatipu Grill
Kawarau Village, Peninsula Road, Queenstown 9300, New Zealand
+64 3 450 9400

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments for this article

5 Responses to “An Evening with GIOVANNI & ALESSANDRO in Wakatipu Grill”

  1. Rosemary says:
    February 11, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    Very interested to read your article, Rebecca. Especially, but not only, as my son Daniel was one of the chefs. Thank you for reporting Giovanni’s comment on the use of fresh, locally grown produce. I wholeheartedly agree. And yes, what a blessing to be eating the food cooked and prepared by these excellent Chefs.

    • Rebecca Varidel
      Rebecca Varidel says:
      February 12, 2012 at 5:38 pm

      Hello Rosemary – thank you. Daniel is in a couple of the photos. It was an amazing dinner.

  2. mary mc grath says:
    February 19, 2012 at 3:00 am

    It sounds like a wonderful evening, amazing food by such talented chefs. Our son Alan is a chef at the Wakatipu Grill and we are so proud of him,he is in some of the photos. Hope to travel from Ireland soon to experience it all.

    • Rebecca Varidel
      Rebecca Varidel says:
      February 19, 2012 at 9:28 am

      Lovely to hear from you Mary. Glad I could share the evening with you from the other side of the world until the time comes when you can travel to New Zealand.

  3. Rebecca Varidel
    Rebecca Varidel says:
    February 20, 2012 at 12:15 am

    another photo from this evening (with Chef Daniel Mulligan plating up) is featured in the Canon Australia, Canon Island photo challenge (the 5th and final challenge)

    Voting opens 9am Monday 20th February and closes 1st March 2012 at 5pm.

    I’m one of only five Australians invited to compete in the five island challenges – and the only food representative.

Leave a Reply