IN A NUTSHELL:
I am a passionate, straight-talking, award-winning Head Chef from New Zealand living and working in the Cairngorms, Scotland.
Owner of The Mountain Cafe, Aviemore, I’m a regular contributor to BBC Scotland’s Kitchen Cafe, a show which promotes the sheer joy of growing and cooking your own food – an ethos very much shared by me and the rest of the team at the Mountain Cafe.
I launched my first book The Mountain Cafe Cookbook; A kiwi in the Cairngorms in February 2017. It sold out within the first month of publication and is now on it’s second print run.
THE LONGER STORY
My passion for food started the minute I could put it in my mouth. I was never going to be a fussy child or an unhealthy one. I grew up on my grandparents farm in Temuka, South Island, New Zealand. I know everyone says his or her grandparents are the best, but mine really were! They taught me everything about love and respect and about sitting and enjoying food as a family.
At a young age I found solace in food and cooking. I loved helping Nana and Granddad make their green tomato pickle or scraping new potatoes with Granddad at the old barbecue table in the garden. Flipping pikelets and sitting down to a huge plate with raspberry jam and whipped cream was heavenly. Home reared, home grown and home cooked food was the foundation and along with the occasional trip to George’s, a Swiss German-style restaurant in nearby Timaru, by the age of five I had already found my calling in life.
I went to Aoraki Polytechnic to do my chef exams; the tutors were an awesome bunch, but one in particular changed my life. Lindsay Bennett was everything I dreamt of being in a chef. He was smart, hardworking, talented beyond belief and his knowledge was mind blowing. Lindsay completely inspired me and made me realise there was a whole world out there and that I would never stop learning about food.
At the age of 20, after winning gold in the New Zealand Culinary Fare as part of the polytechnic culinary team, I managed to scrape together enough cash for a one-way ticket to the UK – and here the adventure really began.
For the next few years I worked my ass off, in good jobs and bad. I experienced everything from Michelin-starred hotels to London fine dining and after this crazy and intense time, I decided to move on and go travelling. I gave up my room in London, loaded my backpack, knives and whites, bought a train ticket and headed North. I ate my way around England and Scotland, and eventually found myself in Aviemore looking for a weekend of skiing. Three years later I was settled in the Cairngorms, married to a Scotsman and about to take over the Mountain Café in Aviemore. Who’d have thought it!
THE MOUNTAIN CAFE:
Opening the cafe was a huge learning curve and in the first year we made a massive financial loss and I almost lost the place. But with a lot of hard work, good advice, sleepless nights, determination and a passion that somehow remained with me throughout the whole journey we finally got to the place that is now the MC Aviemore.
MY FIRST BOOK:
The process of writing the Mountain Cafe Cookbook has been…