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.” dish.co.nz
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.