Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Meet the People - 41

Another in the Series Meet the People – Ordinary and Extraordinary New Zealanders Doing Interesting ThingsBristol-born chef, Ben Batterbury had always wanted “to come downunder,” so when he got the chance he grabbed it. Ben, 31, is head chef at the brand new Rees Hotel and Luxury Apartments on Queenstown’s Frankton Road and just months into his New Zealand position, he’s enjoying coming to terms with new ingredients and Queenstown’s remarkable scenery. Ben began his cheffing career fifteen years ago, studying at Brunel College in Bristol and working in a hotel at the same time. Since then he’s worked in a number of high-end country hotels around England, including Charlton House, Studley Priory and Homewood Park. There was also a stint at Casa Velha do Palheiro in Madiera and another at Cameron House in Scotland.
And so to his passion: “Food seems to have become just another chore for many people but I still believe that if you have to eat, why not enjoy it? The challenge of creating something everyday is what drives me,” he says. Ben also believes in ‘the theatre’ of food – that it should it should look good, that it should entice diners; and that fresh, seasonal produce sourced locally is at the heart of exquisite tastes. He carries that through in his interest in food photography. “It’s great getting up close to food and seeing all the colours and textures in a dish. I do a lot of food photography. In find it inspirational – and of course it’s good for the personal scrapbook.” (All of the photographs featured here are Ben’s work).
Ben pinpoints three highlights in his career thus far: achieving three rosettes in his first head chef’s job; being lucky enough to have worked in several different countries and seeing younger members of his kitchen team win national competitions; and cooking for Heston Blumenthal and the King of Jordan. Beyond the kitchen in Queenstown, Ben is getting out and about cycling and snowboarding “enjoying as much of the unmissable surroundings as possible;” and “as much as my wallet will allow, I’m also eating out.” And yes, he does cook at home on his days off. “It’s a great chance to try new ingredients and flavours without the pressure of customers. It’s also nice to cook ‘normal food.’ His favourite food? “Anything with cheese in. I’m a big mouse, although I enjoy anything that is fresh and well-cooked.” www.therees.co.nz

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