AS TOLD TO Joshua Brosnahan PHOTO Cassandra Kovacs
HAMISH WATT, 39, REDCLIFFS
I’ve been in Christchurch and working as Executive Chef at Crowne Plaza for two months. Before the shift from Hunter Valley, my wife Tiffany and I holidayed here – we rented a camper van and just travelled. I don’t think I’d ever move back to a big city now, Christchurch is a perfect size. ‘Peak hour traffic’ doesn’t exist! I’ve been cheffing for 25 years. Having completed an apprenticeship at Neil Perry’s original Rockpool in the Rocks Sydney, I then went to Bistro Moncure with Damien Pinolet. Then we travelled to London. Like many, we went as backpackers and stayed.
I worked with Rowley Leigh at Kensington Place in Notting Hill, a renowned seafood restaurant which still exists. After ten years in London, Tiffany and I returned to Australia, took the plunge and opened our own restaurant: Watts On Crown in Surrey Hills, Sydney, offering modern Australian fare. It was one of the best things we’ve done – hard work but fantastic! Every chef dreams of their own place. Watts On Crown had a good run, and after four years we were ready to move on.
My next position was Executive Sous Chef at Crowne Plaza in the Hunter Valley wine region in New South Wales, which I held for three years.
Now, thanks to my role at Crowne Plaza, we’ve found ourselves in Christchurch and loving it! Using local produce is my favourite part about working at Market Place Restaurant, because each dish has a story. I discovered a new cheese supplier at the Riccarton Farmers Market – Sue and Guy Trafford were selling their range of sheep milk cheeses, so I gave them my card! It will be great to showcase their products.
We’re launching a new spring menu at Market Place, focusing on local and seasonal offerings and aiming for a dish or two where everything is sourced within 50km of the hotel. Expect asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, courgette flowers, spring lamb and fresh snapper. We’re also celebrating the season with a ‘Sunday Spring Roast’ – all the traditional trimmings with a few Hamish specialties thrown in. The first is on Father’s Day. I wholeheartedly welcome Cantabrians to experience the food and ambience at the Crowne Plaza.