New Zealand’s adventure capital has made a name for itself among nature lovers and adrenalin junkies, but only in recent years has the small south island settlement of Queenstown become a foodie destination.
“With the explosion of food TV and celebrity chefs, we are seeing more top class restaurants opening here all the time,” said Scott Wysockyj, the newest member of Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa’s signature fine-dining restaurant, Wakatipu Grill.
“Gone are the days of a few quality local restaurants, backed up with ethnic eateries and takeaway options. We now have the best burgers and bakery in the country, numerous five star and quality hotel restaurants, and everything from gastro pubs to wineries.”
New Zealand's Masterchef judge Simon Gault and celebrity chef Josh Emett both helped raise the bar by opening restaurants downtown in 2012. While Emett is rated among the top chefs in the world, it's not just the well-known cooks moving the locale's culinary offering from strength to strength – it's chefs like Wysockyj.
The seasoned local recently joined Wakatipu Grill’s culinary team as a sous chef, bringing with him 17 years of cooking experience. “My experience has covered all aspects of the industry, from working in cafes and catering, to boutique wineries and restaurants,” said Wysockyj. “I most recently worked as a sous chef for Simon Gault at Shed 5, one of Wellington’s top seafood restaurants.”
One reason Wysockyj was attracted to Wakatipu Grill is its strong connection to the region. The restaurant’s food philosophy places importance on buying local through working directly with farmers when they can, like a pork producer in nearby Oamuru and a salmon farm in Akaroa. The menu also reflects the home-grown focus with a selection of excellent cuts of meat and seafood, including merino lamb and Fiordland crayfish.
Since joining the team Wysockyj has added a signature dish to the menu that reflects the restaurant’s attitude: A pan fried New Zealand grouper, with pumpkin miso puree, steamed brocolini, white anchovy beurre noisette, olive oil powder and pea shoots.
When it comes to the produce selection, the grill uses a garden-to-plate program for sourcing many of their vegetables. The team works with a local school on a vegetable garden, teaching the children how to grow vegetables and buying back what they produce.
Moving forward Wysockyj aims to bring consistent, high-quality food at affordable prices to locals and travellers dining at the grill. He also plans to share his three favorite ingredients through his cooking: salt, butter and love.