Kathy Paterson meets chef Ainsley Rose from Queenstown's Sherwood hotel
Ainsley Rose Thompson is head chef at Queenstown’s Sherwood — the 1980s mock-Tudor motor inn that has been cleverly transformed into a lodge, restaurant, bar and music venue by Stephen Marr, an institution in Auckland hairdressing, Sam Chapman, the co-owner of Wellington’s Matterhorn in the 2000s, and eco-property developer Adam Smith. We caught up with her here.
How did you come to Sherwood?
I had been working in Kaikoura, then Wellington and San Francisco, and my first head chef, Sean Marshall, gave me a call about a project Sam Chapman had been working on. Pretty quickly I was on the phone to Sam and then flew into Queenstown to meet Stephen Marr. My first sight of the peach/pink mock-Tudor buildings, followed by the discussion we had about the plans and the ethos behind the Sherwood community answered any questions I might have had.
Best thing about being a chef?
I get to do my favourite thing for a job. I’d want to cook and work with people whether or not I’m being paid for it.
Worst thing about being a chef?
The hours and working nights. But even that means I don’t know what a rush hour is and I never have to queue at the supermarket. Weekday weekends rock.
What do you eat after evening service?
I’m a weird chef, I eat breakfast, don’t drink coffee and never eat after service. I go home and go straight to bed.
Describe the best meal you have ever eaten
I’ve had a few special fine dining meals with my parents and my sister, but my favourite meals are those with friends and family. I see food all day long so for me it is about the people you are with, the conversation and the energy. From fresh crays up North to Mum’s chicken, spinach and brie pie, to Dad’s yellow rice when we were little. My secret favourite food is burgers!
The one culinary trend you wish would disappear?
Fake food. Whether it’s tofu bacon or an excessive use of powders — it just weirds me out.
How would you describe your style of cooking?
Retrospective, simple, natural and nourishing.
Your favourite ingredient at the moment?
Potatoes. We get epic potatoes in the South Island. Julie, a local friend, is growing stunning Peruvian fingerlings that are similar to urenika.
Your favourite kitchen tool?
Obviously, my knife, but also a microplane.
If you could tell Bite readers one thing, what would it be?
Taste your food, and then season it. Trust your taste buds.
We ordered this spiced buckwheat dukkah roasted pumpkin and it was seasoned to perfection. Ainsley Rose shares her recipe here.