Mark Griffiths makes cooking look easy. He chops with the practiced flair of a seasoned chef, slicing and dicing so quickly that his students shove their thumbs in their pockets, knowing the outcome if they tried to copy his skill. Mark was chef lecturer at AUT for 17 years, and now – as the head chef at The Gourmet Within – he inspires a constant stream of keen foodies.
Living on a lifestyle block in Matakana, with markets within a minute’s stroll of their commercial kitchen, Mark and partner Carmel are surrounded by the best local produce. They created the Gourmet Within as an outlet to share their passion with local and international visitors. They run cooking classes where guests either meet local producers and learn about their produce or, on Saturday, head to the market to select their own ingredients to cook. We spent the day with Mark and Carmel roasting a lamb rack, simmering soup and practising our purée smear. They describe the kitchen as their “happy place” and it is apparent that everything is prepared with love, albeit with furrowed brows among the students. Oh, the pride in sitting down to devour a three-course meal, with lamb rack cooked to perfection and perfectly poached rhubarb, straight from their home garden. Everything has a story: the wine is from their grapes, the olive oil from their trees and the pallet that makes up the hand-made “chandelier” was left over when the dishwasher was delivered. It’s hands-on, hand-picked cooking at its finest. Bookings are essential and evening classes or private groups can be arranged. Wed-Sat, 10am-5pm.
989c Matakana Road, 022 167 1500 or 021 160 6701, the gourmetwithin.co.nz