Craig Martin is Executive Chef at Annandale in New Zealand
Set on the South Island’s Banks Peninsula, Annandale is a 7,000-hectare working farm with four luxury villas.
This award-winning chef began his culinary journey in his hometown of Rotorua, a city known for its bubbling mud pools, natural hot springs and Maori culture. He has cooked at some of the country’s most respected lodges, and put in a stint at Attica, regularly listed in the world’s top 50 restaurants. He has cooked for Tiger Woods, David Beckham, Adrian Brody, and Liz Hurley, to name a few. He now puts his Maori culinary know-how and native New Zealand ingredients to work in his kitchen, along with taking influences from around the world.
We chat to Chef Craig about what it’s like being a lodge chef, and living in a village of only 40 people.
So you work on a big, quite remote farm, running the culinary operations for four luxury villas – that’s quite different from working in a restaurant or hotel in a city.
Yes, I’ve been working at various lodges for about 15 years now, previously at Treetops Lodge, Peppers on the Point, Lake Taupo and Solitaire Lodges. I lived in Melbourne for a year, but I got homesick and had young kids at the time, so didn’t stay long. I’ve been at Annandale now for 4 years.
Because we get so much produce from the farm, my menu changes every day, unlike at a restaurant where you’re making the same dishes for 3 or 4 months. It keeps my brain working, and is a creative challenge I enjoy.
You live next door to the farm in the village at Pigeon Bay, which has a population of about 40 – do you like living so remotely?
Absolutely! The lambs are my alarm clock every morning.
The four villas at Annandale are spread about quite far from each other on the farm – are there any challenges?
It can be logistically difficult. At very busy times, maybe once or twice a year, an extra chef has to be brought in because all 4 villas want a private chef to cook for them.
Getting ingredients for different dietary requirements at the various villas can be tricky, too.
Where do you source your ingredients?
We grow a vast array of fruit, vegetables and herbs in the lodge gardens, everything from turnips and carrots to kiwi fruit and peaches. We also regularly forage for abalone, crayfish, green lip mussels and fresh seaweed from the bay, and wild-growing plants, such as watercress and wood sorrel.
There are also native plants growing on the farm and next to it, such as horopito (native pepper), kawakawa (bush basil) and horokaka (native ice plant).
On the walk from my house to the lodge kitchen, I can pick 20 to 30 different types of flowers and herbs.
Your dishes aren’t always very local, though, for example in the entrée of slow-cooked pork with local abalone, shitake, apple, fennel, shallots and dashi…
I’m very inspired by Asian food, and have been using Asian ingredients for 15 years. I was recently in Chengdu in China, and just loved the bold flavours there.
I’m always looking for new inspiration from New Zealand and around the globe.
Are you able to get hold of Asian ingredients easily?
It’s quite easy now to get Asian ingredients, especially in the big cities. We also grow a lot of imported vegetables in New Zealand, even truffles and saffron, which many are surprised to hear is considered some of the best in the world.
And, of course, New Zealand is famous for its lamb, which you farm at Annandale.
Yes, we get our lamb straight from the farm, and I like to use all of it – the brain, the nose, everything. It depends on our guests, some are adventurous and others are not. But we try to minimise waste as much as we can.
Thank you, Craig, for your time and also for sharing your recipe for Canterbury lamb with us so we can get our own taste of New Zealand.