Putting on the Ritz in pri­vate homes

Central Otago Mirror - - NEWS - By SUE FEA

He’s been pri­vate chef to the rich and fa­mous around the world but th­ese days Bren­dan Downer is happy serv­ing up his culi­nary class in pri­vate Queen­stown homes. His Queen­stown ca­ter­ing busi­ness, ‘Chef Bren­dan’ (chef­bren­dan.com), which he runs with wife, Jo, an ex­pe­ri­enced frontof-house, hos­pi­tal­ity event man­ager, is ‘‘all about sculpt­ing cui­sine, to clients’ per­sonal tastes, and seam­less events’’. English-born, the 44-yearold’s 28-year cook­ing ca­reer be­gan in a lo­cal Bri­tish seafood restau­rant, aged just 14. Since then he’s been pri­vate chef to ev­ery­one from stars like El­ton John and Mick Jag­ger to pres­i­dents on pri­vate su­per-yachts, as well as a stint lo­cally at Glenorchy’s ex­clu­sive Blan­ket Bay. His new busi­ness launched last sum­mer now hosts ev­ery­thing from large stylish wed­dings and events to glam­orous cock­tail par­ties and per­son­alised in-home din­ing, ca­ter­ing for groups from two to 200. ‘‘It’s very at­tain­able. I’m try­ing to en­cour­age ev­ery­one to try hav­ing a pri­vate chef-pre­pared din­ner in their own home with a nice bot­tle of wine. It can be bet­ter value than paying for cabs and babysit­ters to go to a restau­rant in town.’’ Chef Bren­dan said if you do the maths a meal out in a nice restau­rant with wine could eas­ily cost $150 per head and he and his wife, Jo, serve peo­ple at home for any­thing from $85 up to $180 per head, de­pend­ing on menu choices. A Mel­bourne cou­ple re­cently hired him to cook them a six-course wed­ding an­niver­sary din­ner matched with wine in their rented hol­i­day home. Wed­dings are a grow­ing mar­ket as are cor­po­rate par­ties. ‘‘We do mar­quees, homes, Ev­ery­thing is at­tain­able.’’ Downer may have looked af­ter celebri­ties, pres­i­dents and su­per-rich bil­lion­aires, but he’s adamant ev­ery­one gets the same ser­vice and level of at­ten­tion. The Queen­stown, South­ern Lakes and Cen­tral Otago re­gion has a wealth of amaz­ing qual­ity pro­duce avail­able. ‘‘I’m into pre­serv­ing my own fruits and chut­neys. I served apri­cot and peach tarts last year all win­ter long.’’ Chef Bren­dan, who’s trav­elled to 40 coun­tries in his ca­reer, said the key is know­ing where his guests are from and what foods they love. ‘‘Food can get too overly com­pli­cated but beau­ti­fully pre­pared, great in­gre­di­ents speak for them­selves.’’ As solo chef for the likes of Ital­ian Prime Min­is­ter Sil­vio Ber­lus­coni and Rus­sian Chelsea foot­ball club owner Ro­man Abramovich, he had to be both re­source­ful and very or­gan­ised.


pic­nics. ‘‘If you’re way out at sea and some­body wants a souf­fle´ or hand-rolled sushi then you have to de­liver.’’ Araxi Restau­rant in Whistler, Canada, would be one of ‘‘the most pro­fes­sion­ally rounded’’ hos­pi­tal­ity busi­nesses he has ever worked for. He was ex­ec­u­tive chef there for four years work­ing in lux­ury lodges and fine din­ing restau­rants in Canada. The Down­ers also man­aged an 8-bed­room villa, Ye­manja, on 2-hectares, with 14 staff, four swim­ming pools, a boat and cap­tain, for a wealthy Amer­i­can fam­ily on the ex­clu­sive Caribbean is­land of Mus­tique. Now set­tled in Queen­stown, Chef Bren­dan is hop­ing to ex­pand his cook­ing classes and demon­stra­tions. He also hopes to do more kitchen de­sign con­sul­tancy work lo­cally.

Chef Bren­dan’s Lemon Tart and Fresh Rasp­ber­ries

Pas­try 500g flour 175g ic­ing sugar 250g but­ter Zest of 1 lemon 1 eggs Lemon Fill­ing 9 eggs 400g cas­tor sugar 5 lemons (juice of 5, zest of 2) 250ml dou­ble cream 1. Sift the flour and ic­ing sugar into a bowl, work in the but­ter, add lemon zest and the eggs. Knead the mix­ture to a smooth dough, wrap in plas­tic and rest in fridge for at least 30 min­utes. 2. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. 3. Grease a 20 x 3.75 cm deep flan tin with a re­mov­able base. Roll out the pas­try and line the tin al­low­ing an over­hang of not less than 1 cm. 4. Line the pas­try case with bak­ing pa­per and fill with bak­ing beans. Bake for 10 min­utes. Re­move the beans and bak­ing pa­per, trim the pas­try and bake for a fur­ther 10 min­utes. 5. Whisk the eggs with the cas­tor sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl un­til smooth. Stir in the lemon juice, add the cream. Skim any froth from the top. 6. Re­duce the oven tem­per­a­ture 120°C. Pour the cold fill­ing into the hot pas­try case. Bake for 30-40 min­utes. Re­move from the oven, leave to cool and set for about an hour. 7. Serve with won­der­ful fresh lo­cal rasp­ber­ries, a driz­zle of honey and a spoon of nat­u­ral yo­ghurt.


In ac­tion: Chef Bren­dan per­form­ing while ca­ter­ing at a 40th birth­day party at a Queen­stown home last year.

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