With Taste of Auckland coming, you know we’ve been featuring quite a few chefs. This time we got to talk to the head chef of Clooney – Des Harris.
The moment we walked into the restaurant (during the day while it was closed) it was like a different world… no spanking white table cloths or upright seats – just couches and round tables. It was like a different world. Des steps out of his prep work to greet us: “It’s awesome right? It’s like the complete opposite to me” – this same chef that came from the fine dining scene of Logan Brown in Wellington, having worked along side Al Brown and Kyle Street. They all seem like one big family in the NZ dining scene.
Where did the name Clooney come from?
That’s a question for Tony (Clooney’s restaurant manager). He wanted a stand alone name and through the letters of the word represented the space well with all it’s curves in the booths, tables & curtaining.
What’s the first thing you do when you walk into Clooney?
Turn the lights & ovens on, have a coffee.
With the rise of new relaxed style of dining, do you think people are heading away from fine dining?
Yes, but we think it is a knee jerk reaction to the financial crisis. People will always need something special and it will come full circle over a period of time. It is up to us to offer that.
What makes Clooney so special – any signature dishes?
You could be anywhere in the world, Clooney’s décor is so chic & modern. The restaurant experience is intimate and you almost feel like you’ve walked into another world when you walk into Clooney.
The lighting plays an important part with the food – the lighting (aimed at each table setting) lifts the food, just like a photo does.
What’s your challenge in finding fresh ingredients?
This is becoming easier with suppliers wanting to offer unique ingredients. Menu planning has to be organized & sensible.
Do you want to change anything in the NZ food scene?
I am part of an exciting growth period in New Zealand dining, especially Auckland.
There are enough talented chefs cooking in great restaurants now who are together lifting the standard of dining in New Zealand; and we all have the same great philosophy on food.
The most embarrassing thing you’ve done in your kitchen?
I really don’t know. I like to keep a sense of humor present and that could potentially be seen as embarrassing at times. Humour is necessary as there’s a lot of pressure on the team with the work load and it can’t be serious the whole time!
Do you normally cook at home? If we raided your fridge today, what can we find?
I cook as much as I can, although I’m not home for many dinners I try to leave something prepared for the family.
My pantry and fridge are pretty normal really. In my fridge? You would always find some yogurt, butter, tasty cheese & pickles.
Who taught you everything you know?
Working at Logan brown for so long taught me an incredible amount, not only food wise but also about ‘culture’ & how a restaurant should run. As far as modern food (technique) goes I’m self taught, and fundamentals taught by Al Brown will stick with me (food must pass the “Eat-Well” test).
If you could work with any chef in the world, who would it be?
Magnus Neilson, I’ve been following him for some time – he is incredible.
What’s one thing you wish you knew before you started as a chef?
That balancing family & work was going to be such a relentless challenge.
33 Sale Street, Freemans Bay
09 358 1702
So there’s another few more wise words from another chef. If you’re heading to Taste of Auckland this year, don’t forget let us know and we can have an Omnoms Taste Food Crawl! With the new places that are there this year, I’m pretty sure it’ll be awesome. Like it has been the past 2 years.
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