Jean-Michel with French culinary foundations, fine tuned his skills with many acclaimed establishments around the world from Michelin starred restaurant in Switzerland to Relais Chateaux Group in Ireland. He was also head chef of the celebrated Roly’s Bistro, one of the largest and most successful restaurant in the ‘90s with an average turnover of 800 covers per day. He then moved to Shelbourne Hotel and opened Side Door Restaurant before being appointed Head Chef at Conrad Gallagher’s highly acclaimed Restaurant Peacock Alley which achieved a Michelin Star under his guidance. Since then Jean-Michel has opened his own eatery, cooking school and catering arm all of whom had much initial success. He is currently Executive Head Chef of The Kinloch Club bringing his years of experience and expertise to one of New Zealand’s most celebrated lodges.
1. What is your philosophy when it comes to food?
My philosophy is to work with the finest New Zealand ingredients, respecting their natural flavors through careful preparation we well as using only specific fresh herbs and spices to enhance their initial flavors.
The composition of a dish is very important to me; it is preliminary to the taste. A saying that I adhere to is “It feels good, looks good and tastes good.”
2. Name your most Favorite dish on the menu? And why?
Dry cured Ora king salmon dusted in Harakeke and Horopito, wasabi crème fraiche, pickled apple and cucumber, micro herbs salad, fennel pollen.
The salmon are farmed and nurtured in the crystal clear waters flowing from Te Waikoropupu Springs near Golden Bay giving its flesh beautiful colour and texture.
3. Main considerations when it comes to choosing your ingredients?
The ingredients needs to be as sustainable and organic as possible.
4. How do you see the growing demands for sustainable produce affecting the food world?
This is of utmost importance for the estate thus we only deal with line caught fish and shellfish. Our dairy is from a local organic farm.
5. If you weren’t a chef, or in the food business, what would you be?
A fishing guide or photographer due to my passion for fly fishing and photography.
6. Do you have a memorable food experience that impacted you as a child or young chef?
Due to my passion for fly fishing very early in life, I used to wandering along beautiful rivers collecting wild food such as berries and mushrooms, the most memorable being a black truffle from which my passion of cooking started.
7. What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
The freedom of expression, to be able to buy and grow some incredible ingredients as well as working with a team of chefs who share the passion for excellence. Cooking is all about sharing with others and developing new friends along the way.
8. Other than creating good food, what are the most important qualities that make a successful chef?
Ability to recognize quality of ingredients and respect the produce with minimal wastage. Working well with people of different personalities and share the passion for cooking. Patience and perseverance are also key virtues to have.
9. If you had a choice of anything for your last meal, what would you choose to have?
It will be seared duck foie gras with celeriac puree, caramelized green apples, black truffle shaving and sherry veal.
10. Do you have any tips for budding chefs or restaurateurs?
Have the right cooking method and explore new ways of cooking.