It is really all about going on a journey of tea – the perfect high tea is where the tea itself stands out. Tea is kind of like wine; we increasingly want to know where it’s from, just like when you drive through Marlborough. You see the vines, and learn the landscape and that translates when you drink a good glass of sauvignon blanc.
It really depends on the occasion. This is what we’re learning in New Zealand, that there are different teas for different times of day. Last night I had a rosehip and hibiscus, which definitely wasn’t for me. Often I’ll have a black tea at home, but I change it up for the occasion. I love finishing my day with a cup of chamomile, and Opata Estate Silver Jubilee Oolong is my current favourite – a cup of that before bed.
Healthy can be good, but high tea definitely needs sweet things. For the Dilmah High Tea Challenge, healthy recipes are not what I’ll be looking for as a judge, because it’s not part of the brief. However, I think the world is definitely moving that way – towards a significant reduction in the use of refined sugar. And if a team I was judging was to reduce refined sugar by using things like dates or apple for sweetness, well that would earn a rather large tick.
It was definitely a positive move, as I think it’s the way food is going. The big mistake was making a big song and dance about it. I’ve always strived in my career to be first off the block; to be leading. And that was what I was doing so I made a big fuss about it. But people were put off; they thought, ‘We can’t go to Euro because it’s healthy!’ So we’ve stopped going on about it. But people love it, especially the refined sugar-free desserts. We sell more desserts now than ever.
The great thing is they come with me a lot of the time; they love it, they get involved trying different cuisines. Also I’ve got great teams of staff at my restaurants, which takes the pressure off me.
Hell yeah! She’s probably going to hate me for it one day, but she’s such a good eater. She’ll eat anything: anchovies, olives, all of it. She loves food. Drinking lots of water! But also, you’ve got to have as small tastes as feasible. You really are only tasting.
No way! I think it’s really only gearing up. As long as people are eating, food reality TV will be here. I think shows like MasterChef have done a lot for young people in this country: the way they think about food, and getting people into cooking. New Zealand will be a far better country in 10 years time because of it.
It is in great shape – and it is only getting better. We’re developing and evolving as a nation of cooks and eaters, and more people dine out now than ever. We have some of the freshest produce in the world and I see so much talent coming through – it’s exciting!