Interview With Fiona Of Chef Fiona NZ
We recently had the opportunity to catch up the ever busy Chef Fiona who never seems to keep still, from running her own business to growing her own fruit, vegetables and herbs, foraging, looking after her chickens and making her own wines and ciders. We were delighted she found the time to talk with us.
Chef Fiona has an illustrious work experience having worked in some prestigious hotels and restaurants during her career, that she has put to good use in offering unique private dining options, in line with clients own special requirements, a truly personal approach where the restaurant experience is brought to your own home. In addition Fiona offers cookery lessons and has launched an amazing range of prepared meals and delicious fresh sushi all available to order online.
What was your favourite meal growing up?
"My Dad used to make the best spaghetti bolognese. It was such a treat as he only ever made it if Mum went away. His top tip was to make sure you brown the onions really well which I still do to this day. Spaghetti bolognese was one of the top recipes my partner Iain and I used to cook when we first met. Dad's onion browning tip definitely gives it the edge."
When did you know you wanted to be a chef?
"I have cooked pretty much all of my life and knew I wanted to do something food related when I was just 3 years old. However, it was only after being at university for a couple of years that I decided to have a go at cheffing. It was never meant to be a permanent thing; I thought it would be a great job to do while travelling.'"
What do you love most about your job?
"With running my own business Chef Fiona NZ, I love being able to have so much flexibility and variation with the things I cook.This certainly keeps things interesting and rewarding and there really is no chance of becoming bored. Being able to interact directly with my clients is also incredibly fulfilling rather than being hidden away in the kitchen."
Is there a chef you admire the most? Who and why?
"It has to be Anthony Bourdain. Kitchen Confidential was such an accurate portrayal of kitchen culture. Most of all I just loved his insightful and fearless exploration of food and travel. His honest, no mess approach revolutionised cooking programmes for real foodies who love the experience of discovering different cuisines and cultures. His passing was a huge loss."
What is your favourite dish to cook and why?
"It is really hard to pinpoint one favourite dish as so many factors are at play, such as where I am, recent travels, the time of year, etc. I love cooking and eating so many different things from sushi (which I am really getting into at the moment) or exotic south east asian dishes to a classic bacon and egg sandwich on homemade bread with eggs from my chickens. To be able to make a dish using ingredients freshly harvested from the garden is one of the best things ever! Having so many clients with different tastes, I get to indulge my particularly flighty cooking whims, so I never feel stuck doing the same thing all the time."
What are your favourite ingredients to cook with?
"I love to cook with local, seasonal ingredients. Things that are in season generally go really well together. But I also love to cook with more unusual ingredients to give interesting flavour notes. I don't mean unusual for the sake of being different, but because the flavour is wonderful and compliments the local produce which is always the star. Foraged herbs, for example, add wonderful and sometimes unexpected taste sensations; Yuzu juice, while not a local ingredient (but where do you draw the line?), can give a dish an unparalleled citrus freshness which I absolutely adore, especially in a Cornish crab salad. I love to cure ingredients too and then lightly smoke with different types of wood, which add even more flavour dimensions. These different flavours go towards creating dishes which are very much in keeping with my style."
What is the best advice you have ever gotten?
"You work so hard making money for other people. You are someone who will work hard no matter what, so really, you would be better off being your own boss and making that money for yourself."
What culinary destinations are on your bucket list?
"Well Nepal is the next one. We were due to fly there at the end of April but like so many, our travel plans have been put on hold, so hopefully we will get there next year. I definitely want to spend more time in South East Asia. Another trip to Vietnam is on the list as well as Cambodia. One day I will get to Japan. Who knows, maybe that will be next year too, strictly for food and cultural research purposes of course!"
Guilty pleasures: What do you eat when nobody is looking?
"Cheese and onion crisps. Can't beat the flavour. Can't beat the crunch! I definitely have more of a savoury tooth for personal consumption."
How does Cornwall compare to New Zealand?
"Totally different places to be honest. People often say there are similarities but I think it is more an attitude that people have rather than the two being similar. There tends to be a relaxed vibe in Cornwall, with beautiful beaches and scenery, enjoying the outdoors (weather permitting), glorious ingredients including the freshest fish and seafood, which New Zealand also has in truckloads. New Zealand is much more culturally diverse regarding cuisines than Cornwall has been but this is constantly evolving here. I grew up being able to try all sorts of exciting foods from around Asia and the South Pacific. It's wonderful that the food scene in Cornwall continues to blossom and develop, and influences from countries beyond Europe are becoming more evident."
Do the local ingredients and produce influence your cooking?
"Most definitely. When I am writing menus, I always consider the season first and what is available before I get creative. We are incredibly blessed with the range of ingredients we have on our doorstep in Cornwall."
We love your extensive range of pre-packaged meals that are available for delivery, have these been popular during recent times?
"I decided to take some time off during the lockdown and focus more on getting the garden sorted out, which I never normally have the time to do. A few weeks ago I thought it was probably time to get back to work and thought I would offer something different alongside my prepared meals. I wanted to create something that I also absolutely love to make. With so many restaurants now doing takeaways and delivered meals. I have been offering a sushi home delivery service, Fi Sells Sushi. The menu changes each week and I take orders for sushi to be delivered on a Friday, covering different areas of Cornwall. So far the support has been incredible. It's difficult to gauge if this is mainly due to lockdown restrictions, but time will soon tell."
In the current circumstances as you say “Dining in is the new eating out”, do you feel that this trend will continue?
"Absolutely! So many of my clients want to have all the trappings of eating out in a fabulous restaurant without worrying about childcare, taxis, dress codes and privacy. There is also ultimate flexibility with menu choices. With restrictions from Covid-19, staying in and having a private chef or meals delivered can certainly help to alleviate concerns about social distancing and minimising interaction with individuals outside household bubbles etc. while still being able to enjoy attentive service throughout."
Do you prefer working in a busy kitchen or doing your doing private parties and cookery lessons?
"I have to confess I prefer my private parties. I really do not miss working in a hot, stressful commercial kitchen with all the pressures and demands that entails, especially the long working hours and coping with unachievable targets and personnel. That's my take on it. I nearly gave up being a chef altogether 5 years ago. The decision was made to leave my job while on holiday in Iceland. I then realised I just needed to change how I did things. Going out on my own has been a real positive experience for me."
Do you enjoy demonstrating at the food festivals here in Cornwall?
"I just love doing demonstrations! They are so much fun, especially when I get to perform alongside Daphne Skinnard. They are a great opportunity to get out there and showcase the wonderful produce we have here in Cornwall. There is also the chance to engage with other fellow foodies and chefs, which is fantastic!"
Do you have any tips that could be helpful to home cooks?
"Prior preparation is crucial. There is a saying on that called the 6 Ps. I'll let you work that one out...Always read your recipe through to the end before you start cooking something new. Gather your ingredients before you get started. Make sure you taste your food as you prepare it and adjust seasonings to your taste; you can always add, but once added, you can't take it away, so less is more."
What is your favourite thing to do when you are not cooking?
"I love being able to spend time outdoors, whether that is pottering about in our garden or venturing out into the countryside, exploring nature. When I have real time off, I love to travel abroad on foodie excursions and up to the Scottish islands for intensive nature watching and off gridding."
Thank you for taking the time to talk with us. It has been really interesting and we will be using your tip about the onions when making Bolognese!
What a fabulous experience to have when staying here in Cornwall.
Chef Fiona NZ contact details
Telephone: +44 7470417466
Here is a recipe Fiona kindly shared with us. We can’t wait to try it out.
Rich Yolk Pasta
Number of servings: 4
Time to prep & Time to cook: Approximately 60 minutes to prepare. 3 minutes to cook
You will need:
250g Type 00 Flour
6 St Ewe Rich Yolk Egg Yolks
1 Whole egg
20ml Olive Oil
1 Tbsp water
- Place the flour into the bowl of a food mixer, with a dough hook attachment
- Add the egg yolks, egg and whole egg with the olive oil
- Mix until a dough forms, adding a little water if required
- Knead the dough on low for 5 to 10 minutes or until it is smooth and silky*
- Remove from the mixer and shape into a ball. Wrap in cling film and set aside to rest for about half an hour.
- Dust clean work surface with flour and process the pasta through pasta machine, creating desired pasta ie: tagliatelle, linguine, papardelle or if you are feeling adventurous, into sheets to make ravioli or tortellini.
Whichever pasta you make, cook in plenty of boiling, salted water for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it floats. Drain well and serve with desired sauce. Simply delicious with some grated cured egg yolks, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, some freshly shaved truffle and chopped