Nirvana at Chameleon
It's no secret that Wellington is the culinary capital of New Zealand, from Island Bay to Otaki and across to Mount Bruce, casual cheap eats to high end treats and everything in between.
And this year the Cuisine Good Food Awards shone brightly on Wellington establishments, with over twenty of our finest restaurants being awarded Hats for excellence in what they do.
We’re going behind the scenes to find out more about what drives these restaurants to keep serving up the best, starting this blog series by sitting down with Cuisine de Chef Paul Limacher of Chameleon to talk changes to New Zealand food, and what’s on the menu this summer.
You’ve recently been awarded One Hat in the Cuisine Good Food Awards and looking back on your career you’ve picked up quite a few trophies. What do awards mean for you?
Awards mean a lot, particularly for the team as its recognition for their hard work. They’re proud of what they do. And it’s great for our restaurant, people like to know they’re having an award-winning dish.
What brought you to food and being a chef?
I have a love for food. I left school not really knowing what I wanted to do but fell into a kitchen and that was it, here we are!
What’s so great about NZ produce?
It’s the seasonal and fresh ingredients, and seafood - it’s one of my main loves.
We’re very blessed in New Zealand with the produce we have available. We source from all over but try to buy locally. Sometimes it’s the closest things to you that get missed, for example we get produce from local growers in Otaki you can’t get anywhere else.
Last year we were getting King Crab caught in Cook Straight, 20kms from here which is quite amazing, otherwise it would have to come from the Bering Sea.
I think we’re lucky in the Wellington region and its nirvana for me as a chef, I’ve got all this amazing produce to play with.
How is New Zealand food changing?
How we eat is absolutely changing. When you think of New Zealand 15 or twenty years ago it was whitebait, paua, crayfish and summer barbecues, but this is changing because New Zealanders are changing. People eat out on Christmas day which never used to be a tradition.
I think our culture is changing so what we identify as New Zealand cuisine is also going through a process of finding its feet.
I come back to our ingredients, what is made and produced here is done exceptionally well. We’ve seen incredible changes in wine, cheese, dairy but also sheep, goat and deer industries.
We’re now seeing the results of the diversification in our farming away from sheep and cows. We’re growing truffles, producing the best cheese in world, and of course the best wine in world.
Twenty years ago you’d only put French cheese on the menu because it was that good and way above anything we could produce. Now I only put New Zealand cheese on the menu because I’m proud to showcase it. We have some amazing cheeses that are so good and yummy!
What’s inspiring for you in food at the moment?
The new big thing is deer milking industry.
On my menu right now we have a deer milk aged gouda, and we’re the first in the world to have this. Sourced from the South Island it’s clean, flavoursome, rich and creamy. It hits the spot for me and it’s a pleasure to be able to serve.
I use this on cheeseboard and in a venison dish. That dish uses deer cheeks which is also first, I’ve never seen venison cheeks on a menu in New Zealand. I love finding and using new products like this which doesn’t happen often in your career.
It’s exciting times for New Zealand produce and makes me proud as a Kiwi to be part of it all, right from the start.
How would you describe the food at Chameleon?
There’s a lot of integrity about what we make. The menu description is what you see on your plate. Its honest tucker using fresh ingredients, fresh produce and products. We treat it with respect and don’t overdo it. It’s uncomplicated food.
Chameleon is based at Intercontinental Wellington and serves refined and inspired cuisine 365 days a year. For bookings and enquiries click here.
- 2017 & 2018 – One Hat Cuisine Good Food Awards
- 2017 & 2018 – Cuisine Top 100 restaurants
- 2017 & 2018 – NZ’s Best Beef Dish Silver Fern Farms
- 2018 - New Zealand's Emerging Chef of the Year
- 2017 - Premiere Chef de Cuisine Silver Fern Farm Awards.