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?
AN EVENING WITH GIOVANNI & ALESSANDRO IN WAKATIPU GRILL
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