Kate Richards snoops into some famous Kiwi foodies’ fridges.
A peek into someone’s vegetable crisper might ascertain, for instance, how much they earn by whether their greens are organic or specialist; whether they worry about their waistline, and can afford to; or simply when they last bothered to do a vegetable cull.
What we eat has always been an integral part of social comparison – and we’re a nosy bunch – so in late summer, we took a peek inside some Auckland food personalities’ fridges. Here’s what we found.
Megan May lives in Auckland with her husband and daughter in a tidy, light-filled villa. A pioneer of the raw food movement, May has been making a name for herself as a health food aficionado since she opened the first Little Bird Unbakery in Auckland in 2009. Since then, she’s written two books; she gives regular seminars, hosts food workshops, caters events and now has two branches of her popular vegetarian/vegan cafe. She also sells a range of pre-packaged food and drinks at specialty supermarkets, such as Farro Fresh.
What’s in that jar?
Almond milk. We make that. There’s not much we don’t make.
Tell me about something that’s always in your fridge.
We always have almond milk, sauerkraut and tempeh. There are sprouts, which we make ourselves. I have a three-year-old, so a lot of stuff in here is things she’ll have in her lunchbox. We also have lots from the cafe, like sprouted bread and cashew aioli. There’s always a kimchi pancake mix or dosa mix in there, too.
Why do you keep your nuts in the fridge?
When it’s humid, keeping them there helps preserve the integrity of the oils. They last better. Anything with delicate oils we keep in the fridge in summer.
If 10 unannounced guests showed up for dinner tonight, what would you make them from the fridge?
I’d probably do a big grilled eggplant dish with lots of greens and some herbs, with some black rice or something like that.
Can you tell me about the potions in the door?
There’s spirulina, chlorella, and that jar [see left, on the middle shelf] is what I have every day, like a green powder. It’s a bunch of different algae, dried sprouts, food-based enzymes, mushrooms and Western herbs and antioxidants. I’ve probably had that most days for about eight years. It’s like a wholefoods multivitamin. It’s pretty gross, but I eat it because it makes me feel good.
Tell me about the carrots [not pictured].
They’re pickled carrots we throw together with leafy stuff, and black rice or quinoa, for a quick dinner. Realistic, simple stuff.
Sid and Chand Sahrawat
Sid Sahrawat is executive chef of Metro Top 50 restaurants Sidart and Cassia, which he owns with his wife, Chand. The couple also recently acquired The French Cafe, renaming it Sid at The French Cafe. They live on the North Shore with their two children and eat at home whenever they can.
At Sidart, their flagship restaurant, the mood is distinctly formal, the pace of the evening deeply considered, and the food both daring and exceptionally executed. At Cassia, heritage and heart combine to offer a modern Indian dining experience in a moody downtown bunker. The couple describe their fridge as “quite organised”. We’d call that an understatement.
Chand, can you tell me about the labels?
I did a whole overhaul after being inspired by a picture on Instagram. If you see our pantry, it’s the same. It makes life so easy now. Before, we never knew what we had, but now we can see at a glance. We never end up with, like, five packets of peas in the freezer any more.
And the chillis you’re obsessed with, right Sid?
I love chillis. I’m addicted to spice. The chillis we grow. They’re all for the restaurants: we’ve got cayenne, Carolina reaper, habanero, Trinidad scorpion, jalapeno, meruga scorpion and ghost chillis. You have to wear gloves to cut them because it does burn. We’ve also got scotch bonnets outside – half our garden is dedicated to them. They’re easy to grow.
Chand, do you have fridge staples?
Seasonal veges, salad for lunches; I have salad with mozzarella or goats’ cheese. I guess we always have Fire Dragon chilli sauce.
Sid: Almond milk, kefir [fermented milk], kombucha, because I try not to drink [alcohol] in the week. Cheese sticks and yoghurts for the kids. For cooking, we have miso and curry pastes, too.
What’s the oldest thing in your fridge?
The achar [pickle] in the door is about four months old, but it’s preserved in mustard oil. The older the better, anyway. Our chef went to India recently and brought it back – his mum made it for us. Our grandparents used to make this so to have a jar in the house is like, oh my gosh. There’s some chocolate, too. We bought it in Scandinavia last year for the kids. It’s a special kind you have as a sandwich filling for breakfast with cream cheese.
And you’ve got some ferments/preserves on the go?
Yep, mainly preserves and pickles.
Oscar’s the dog [a 17-year-old shitzu/poodle cross]. He usually has fresh meat in the fridge. Raw, because he’s on a raw diet.
Co-owner and executive chef at Ponsonby Rd restaurant Orphans Kitchen, Hishon is renowned for his holistic approach to cooking and championing of New Zealand food. The 31-year-old buys almost exclusively local, organic produce for his restaurant and at home. He lives with his fiancée, Sophie Burton, and their dog, Moon.
Tell me about the dill pickles.
They’re farmed by a Tongan woman in West Auckland and we bought a few hundred kilos off her for our bakery, Daily Bread. They’re just a brined pickle, really, so you scrub them with salt to start to get the moisture out, then you add a brine. This one has dill, garlic, mustard seeds, coriander seeds. We leave them in it for about a week.
And why do you keep your flour in the fridge?
That’s just to give it a longer shelf life. When it’s humid in Auckland, the fridge is a place that’s humidity controlled – it takes moisture out of the air.
And the eggs are from Warkworth?
Yep. The farm has individual chicken coops on wheels and they take the chickens from paddock to paddock each day so they’re out ranging around. They feed them outside too, so they eat grain and scratch around. They have four different varieties of hens and the flavour is amazing.
Would you buy supermarket eggs?
What’s with the vege sack?
It’s called a swag bag and it’s made with recycled materials. The idea is that you wet it and wring it out, then you put things like celery, leafy greens and stuff in it and it’s meant to keep them fresher than when they go into the fridge. When you pull the vegetables out, they’re amazing.
Why is there nail polish in the fridge?
I can’t answer that. You’d have to ask Soph…
Who makes the sweet chilli sauce in the door?
That’s my sister’s. She grows her own chillis down in Waipara where she lives and she always sends care packages with different chutneys and things like that. But this one is made with mānuka honey and chilli. It’s really good.
The concept behind experimental restaurant Culprit is hard to put into words. Some have called it European yum cha, others a bistro with trolley service, but the best way to explain it is simply to experience it. The restaurant’s co-owner and co-chef Jordan MacDonald lives in an old Parnell villa owned by his parents and rarely cooks at home. He shares the place with his partner Sarah (who’s also a chef), his brother and sister and their partners, and a small pug Pickles.
Is there anything in there that needs to be thrown out?
Do you keep leftovers?
No, not really. I only cook once a week and the rest of the time I eat at work or don’t eat. I usually have lunch at around three o’clock.
Where’s the mustard from?
It’s the Al Brown habanero mustard.
Are the pickles your own?
Yeah, me and my brother have a garden downstairs. There are pickled onions and tamarillo chutney and apricot jam from Mum. There should be some pickled jalapenos. Regular, everyday pickles.
Tell me about the posh wine.
That’s an old listing from Culprit. We buy it off work at cost when there are only a few bottles left, and de-list.
And what about the Lowbrow beer?
We made that with Brothers Beer. It was a moment where I asked [brewer] Cody if he could make us something for our new restaurant Lowbrow, and he did. It’s a lager, a slightly hopped lager. It’s just in cans; we thought it’d be cool to have our own cans of beer rather than something on tap. The branding is fun.
What’s with the jar of water?
That’s Sarah, she likes to have cold water. It’s in case we run out of ice; instead of a cold water bottle, she has a water jar. Don’t ask me why.
And the chocolate milk?
That’s mine. I haven’t tried that one yet, but I’m a big fan of chocolate and mint together – like peppermint slice. Delicious. I’m also down with chocolate orange. The ones from the UK that actually look like an orange, that’s what I’m talking about. Jaffas, not so much. I hate their crispy candy coating.
If someone was to turn up for dinner tonight and you could cook only from the fridge as it is now, what would you make them?
I think there’s some chicken in there… Only the fridge?! Well, there should be a curry paste my girlfriend made at work [Woodpecker Hill] in there so probably some kind of chicken curry with yoghurt and garlic and shallots. There’s generally herbs in there so could use those, too.
I notice you keep your onions in the fridge. That’s an unconventional choice.
Yeah, they stay fresh for longer. Also, I find if I put potatoes and onions in the cupboard, they go off because I forget they’re there.
There’s some T-sauce in the door there. What’s your favourite thing to eat tomato sauce on?
I don’t really eat it; I’ve got a three-year-old. She puts tomato sauce or kewpie mayo on food if she doesn’t like it. The squeezy yoghurts are hers, too.
What’s in the squeezy bottle in the door?
Old Bay vinegar. It’s Old Bay Seasoning with apple vinegar. We make slaws with it – it’s delicious.
This article was first published in the July 2018 issue of North & South.