dish gets a peek in­side the kitchen of Milly’s Kitchen store owner Liz Old­field


Milly’s Kitchen is a trea­sure trove of all things foodie, as is owner Liz Old­field’s home kitchen.

Milly’s Kitchen shop, in Auck­land’s up­mar­ket Pon­sonby, is a vis­ual ban­quet: shelf upon shelf of Euro­pean cast-iron casseroles and pans, gleam­ing cop­per, chef’s knives, top-of-the-range ap­pli­ances, beau­ti­ful bake­ware... and that’s just for starters. So when dish meets Milly’s owner Liz Old­field at her Herne Bay villa, it’s no sur­prise to learn that cook­ing is some­thing very close to her heart. Liz shares the el­e­gant early 1900s weather­board villa with hus­band, Carey, and Humphrey, a mag­nif­i­cently lush rag­doll cat. Their three chil­dren are all in their 20s and liv­ing away from home. Hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try vet­eran Liz mod­ernised the kitchen about 10 years ago (within the con­straints of what is per­mit­ted in a her­itage zone home) in their first big ren­o­va­tion af­ter mov­ing in al­most 30 years ago, open­ing up the space to flow into the liv­ing room. One very ap­peal­ing fea­ture is the large walk-in pantry; as well as am­ple shelv­ing, tucked out of sight is a high rail on which hang an ar­ray of pans of all sizes. This is clearly the do­main of some­one who loves to spend time in the kitchen.

“A big pantry was a pri­or­ity; I worked for years in hos­pi­tal­ity and now with Milly’s I have col­lected a lot of stuff!”

The kitchen is stylish but un­der­stated, and very user-friendly. “My ethos has al­ways been you don’t need a flash kitchen to make good food. I just need a kitchen that works. What works for me is lots of open shelv­ing and draw­ers for ev­ery­thing. I didn’t want a lot of cab­i­netry on the walls. It’s a good work­able area that has plenty of bench space be­cause we of­ten have peo­ple here. Peo­ple al­ways say ‘can I give you a hand?’ so the kitchen has a few spa­ces for peo­ple to work.”

The kitchen is­land, the din­ing area im­me­di­ately in front of it, and a ta­ble on the deck – just a few paces away through French doors – are the heart of the home. This is where loved ones come to­gether to eat, laugh, com­mis­er­ate, and gen­er­ally have a good time over good food and wine. “In sum­mer those doors [onto the deck] are open from day­break un­til we go to bed.

“I am very or­gan­ised when I have peo­ple com­ing for din­ner. I like ev­ery­thing to be done so it’s just bang, bang, bang and din­ner is served so I can still be a part of it and not in a mess. Peo­ple hang out there [at the is­land bench] and I might be putting plates out or just fin­ish­ing things. Be­cause this kitchen is very much on show; there is nowhere to hide.”

Liz is the main cook in the house; she’s self­taught, with a hand “from all the greats – like Nigella and Nigel Slater”. When the cou­ple first came from their na­tive Welling­ton to Auck­land, with baby Max, she took the op­por­tu­nity to de­velop her skills fur­ther. With no friends in her new home town, cook­ing pro­vided some­thing to ab­sorb her and gave her a creative out­let.

“I be­came very in­ter­ested in how recipes worked, the sci­ence be­hind it, and flavours.

I’m a very big fan of herbs and spices. They add fresh­ness, depth and com­plex­ity,” says Liz, who’s par­tic­u­larly fond of pan-asian flavours.

Liz works in the store ev­ery day, in­clud­ing

Satur­days. Yes, it’s hard work, es­pe­cially at Christ­mas when she com­piles the an­nual cat­a­logue (Milly’s does a thriv­ing on­line trade). But she loves the cus­tomer in­ter­ac­tion. “I like hear­ing what peo­ple are cook­ing, why they’re cook­ing it, who they’re cook­ing for, what their con­straints are. I like peo­ple to walk out of the shop know­ing a lit­tle more, feel­ing a bit more con­fi­dent, and with a prod­uct I know is the best thing they could buy for the way they cook.”

It’s about in­vest­ing in some­thing that will serve you well, says Liz. “For ex­am­ple Mau­viel cop­per. Made largely by hand. In France. Or Emile Henry.” She places great em­pha­sis on each word. “See this mark on the bot­tom of it? That is the sig­na­ture of the man who made it for you.”

Great cook­ware is “plea­sur­able, very”, but the real joy comes in shar­ing the fruits of her labour. She points to their large in­door din­ing ta­ble. “I love that ta­ble, just be­cause it’s seen some re­ally great times. Fri­day night din­ners are my favourite. There are spe­cial friends we in­vite around reg­u­larly. They’re ca­sual din­ners. It doesn’t have to be about food, it’s about fel­low­ship.” She laughs. “That sounds a bit re­li­gious! But it’s re­ally ground­ing.”

On the ta­ble are two large can­dle­sticks – their melted can­dles proof that they’re not just for show.

“When I was young my par­ents trav­elled quite a bit and I’d of­ten go and stay with friends of theirs who are Jewish. I’d of­ten go there from school on Fri­day af­ter­noons and they would al­ways light their can­dles. My hus­band said to me, some years af­ter we were mar­ried, ‘I re­ally love the way you light can­dles on a Fri­day night.’ I hadn’t even re­alised I did it. It’s a lovely way to close the week, take a breath and wel­come in the week­end. I love can­dles. They’re a very ‘liv­ing’ thing – and flat­ter­ing for those of us get­ting older.”

Liz with Humphrey the cat.

Liz loves her din­ing ta­ble. “It’s seen some re­ally great times.”

Cook­ing and bak­ing are Liz’s pas­sions – some­thing that is in­stantly ev­i­dent when you en­ter the walk-in pantry. Well-equipped, beau­ti­fully or­gan­ised and supremely user-friendly, this mini-milly’s is ev­ery foodie’s dream. Liz’s Kitchenaid stand mixer is a cook­ing sta­ple.

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