Nici Wickes is a regular contributor for NZ Herald's Viva where she delivers thought-provoking food articles and entertaining restaurant reviews on a weekly basis. Nici has trained as a chef and also run her own catering business but mostly her extensive knowledge of food and cooking comes from travelling the world, learning new ways of cooking and eating.
What’s your earliest food memory?
Playing make believe cooking shows in our kitchen with me as chief chef! I was modeling it on Hudson & Halls’ TV show!
Where do you draw your culinary inspiration?
From eating out, travelling, flicking through food magazines and cook books and from what is out there, growing and flourishing with the seasons.
Who is your cooking idol?
Cliched, but my mother and nana, both of whom had the patience of saints letting me help out in the kitchen from an early age.
What is your greatest cooking achievement to date?
Creating recipes for World Kitchen (food-travel TV show) and have people all over the world contact me to tell me that they’ve cooked it and it was spectacular and gave them the confidence in their own kitchen to cook new dishes!
What’s your favourite meal?
Something that I find at a street stall or market in some far-flung country that just brings my taste buds alive - bbq chilli chicken in Thailand, a ball of fresh soft mozzarella in Napoli, a slow cooked tagine in the souk in Morocco.
What’s your biggest kitchen disaster?
Developing recipes for the China episodes of World Kitchen was a true test because I’d been sick for most of the filming so I kept making terrible dish after terrible dish and thought I’d never get there. It goes to show you’ve got to have the love to cook well! I got there in the end and my kung poa chicken is one of my star recipes now.
If you could eat anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Around my big table on the deck at home, with friends and family because regardless of how glamorous travelling looks, food always tastes better when shared with those you love.
What are your kitchen must haves?
Ingredient-wise... lemons, parmesan, risotto rice and bacon.
Equipment-wise... a mandolin, good wooden spoons and a beat up old fry pan that’s oven-proof.
Why do you love cooking?
Because it brings me happiness to nourish myself and others.
Who is your dream dinner guest?
Someone who says yes to seconds!