Clooney restaurant’s executive chef Des Harris is on a roll. He was awarded three chef hats in this year’s Cuisine NZ Good Food Awards, one of only four chefs in the country to do so, and last year he was named Cuisine’s 2013 chef of the year.
“I find it very satisfying that I make money doing what I truly love, something I actually consider a passion and one that makes so many people happy, all the while inspiring and helping forge many young chefs’ careers,” he says.
Des’s food is an inventive mix of classical and modern which is always created with the diner (rather than the chef) in mind. Quietly spoken and modest, he beginning his career at 22 in Wellington’s Turners Steakhouse and has been at fine-dining Auckland restaurant Clooney since its inception in 2006.
Obsessed with cooking since childhood - watching his grandmother busy in the kitchen - he says his latest influence has been the addition of Gary Olasz to the Clooney team and the knowledge he has bought.
“Gary is nearing the completion of his Advanced Sommeliers qualification. He has helped me understand the complexity of taste, in turn helping develop my composition of flavours.
“Our goal at Clooney is modern food that is interesting and has length of palette, and between our two skill sets, I feel that’s what we offer our guests.”
The food at Clooney may be complex to produce but Des has brought his signature style home for Bite readers with four accessible, yet definitely impressive, finger food recipes for drinks with friends.
“We don’t serve finger food at Clooney so it was nice to create these recipes which are open adaptations and interpretations. That’s the best thing about cooking.”
And his advice for entertaining? “Be prepared. Take the time the day before to prepare the key components to take the pressure off the event and to allow you to enjoy time with your guests rather than being stuck in the kitchen.”
It helps reduce the mess on the day, too, he adds.
Des Harris's food for drinks