When asked about his food philosophy, chef Jamie Hogg-Wharekawa uses his best ingredients he can find to cook or serve in a way that allows the ingredients to speak for themselves.
There’s nothing better than a simple, perfectly cooked piece of fish served with a sprinkle of flakey salt with a dash of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.
From a young age Hogg-Wharekawa has always been fascinated with cooking.
“My dad was a keen cook at home and it always intrigued me. Then during high school I was working as a dishwasher on the weekends and I would watch the chefs prep and cook and serve all this food. Just seeing them being so passionate in what they’re doing it is what really drew me in,” he says.
Hogg-Wharekawa found himself travelling around eventually ending up New York City in pursuit of his chef career, “as far back as I can remember it has always been my dream to move to New York.”
While in New York City, Hogg-Wharekawa was able to open his own restaurant named Gran Tivoli, a place Hogg-Wharekawa has called his most difficult, exciting and rewarding experiences.
“Trying to get the gas connected and applying for a food license in the City of New York for example were both long and drawn out processes.”
“Hiring and building my kitchen team from chefs I had worked with over the past few years in NYC was a super fun process and having people on board that you know you work well with and are amazing at their job makes the whole restaurant opening that much more smoother and enjoyable.”
Based on the border of Little Italy, Hogg-Wharekawa wanted to make the Gran Tivoli an everyday neighbourhood restaurant with a menu expansive enough the regular customers can dine a few times a week and not have the same items twice.
His menu was broken down into small, medium and large plates with a big emphasis on seafood but also including robust meat, vegetarian meat and an extensive hand-made pasta program.
Unfortunately, when COVID-19 hit in 2020, Hogg-Wharekawa was forced to come back home to New Zealand due to restrictions overseas.
After settling back in and enjoying a few months of a Kiwi Summer, Jamie got in touch with Josh and has landed the coveted Head Chef role at Waiheke Island’s The Oyster Inn.
Hogg-Wharekawa was able to incorporate his experiences he learnt overseas into the food at The Oyster Inn.
“One of the biggest learning curves for me was working in New York and having such a seasonal-produce driven menu and how to incorporate that current season’s offerings into delicious meals. I love getting the whole kitchen team involved and thinking about new ideas and what we can do with upcoming new season’s offerings,” he says.
When asked if he would want to work internationally again once COVID-19 restrictions ease, Hogg-Wharekawa says he always wanted to travel and work abroad but he is currently happy working and living in New Zealand, “this country has a world class dining scene with local talent to match. It’s good to be home.”