Mart­in­bor­ough’s Michelin-star chef

Wairarapa News - - FRONT PAGE - JANAN JAY

A Michelin-star chef from Bri­tain is the man be­hind the newly opened Union Square Bistro. Formerly the Mart­in­bor­ough Ho­tel, it’s the first place he worked when he ar­rived 20 years ago.

Orig­i­nally from Corn­wall, 52-year-old Adam Newell made the move to New Zealand in 1997. He did a three-month stint at the ho­tel while wait­ing for Te Papa to open, where he al­ready had a chef job wait­ing. It felt like home, and be­ing back is a ‘‘dream come true’’, he says.

Newell stud­ied cook­ing at Portsmouth Poly­tech­nic and grad­u­ated in 1983. In 1988, he took up the po­si­tion of chef de par­tie at the five star Clar­idge’s Ho­tel, in the af­flu­ent district of May­fair, London. He re­calls that the ex­pe­ri­ence re­ally ‘‘opened his eyes’’.

‘‘There was no ex­pense spared,’’ he says. ‘‘It was just phe­nom­e­nal.’’

Two years later he moved down the road to the three Michelin-starred Le Gavroche, work­ing un­der the now le­gendary Roux Brothers. Af­ter five years, Al­bert Roux of­fered Newell the op­por­tu­nity to head up The Point, a re­sort on Saranac Lake, New York. Re­turn­ing to London in 1995, he opened the Fulham Road Restau­rant, and was awarded his own Michelin star.

A few years later, he would be head­hunted by Le Cor­don Bleu to work on a very un­usual as­sign­ment; head chef at Bri­tish Hills, a lan­guage and cul­ture school set in a fake English vil­lage in Fukushima, Ja­pan. It’s also where he met his fu­ture wife, Welling­to­nian Ni­cola (43), who taught stu­dents how to make scones.

Af­ter open­ing Wild­fire in Auck­land, The cou­ple es­tab­lished Zibibbo in 2000, and were mar­ried the same year. By 2014 they were set­tled in the Wairarapa, where they bought a vineyard from Ni­cola’s re­tired par­ents. The grapes made way for olives, to make oil for their own Glad­stone brand.

‘‘Nearly killed me,’’ he laughs, ‘‘putting in three thou­sand odd trees.’’

‘‘But it was good for the soul. I just got away from it all. It was just a re­ally good year-anda-half.’’ ‘‘Peo­ple, they see all th­ese things on TV, and they be­lieve that they can repli­cate it in a kitchen. My sug­ges­tion would be to pick one [dish], and try and do that re­ally well.

‘‘[Then] just try and mas­ter a reper­toire of dishes that might be 12, in­stead of 100.

‘‘If you can mas­ter four entrees, four mains, and four desserts, that’s enough for peo­ple at home if they’re do­ing din­ner par­ties. ‘‘It just takes prac­tice. ‘‘[It’s about] pick­ing the best qual­ity chicken, the best qual­ity bit of beef that you can af­ford; cook­ing it sim­ply and cook­ing it well.’’


Adam Newell and wife Ni­cola are the new own­ers of Union Square Bistro, formerly the Mart­in­bor­ough Ho­tel. He says be­ing back at the ho­tel is ‘‘a dream come true’’.

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