Saturday, March 05, 2011

Home in the hills

It's a good thing Danny Young likes cooking. She prepared a feast for the Western New Year on January 1, another for this week's Chinese New Year and will create 10 or more dishes for the four-day Cambodian Water Festival in April.

"We celebrate them all, because I am from Cambodia, my husband, Kit, is from Hong Kong, but my children are New Zealanders. This is our home now."

And what a home it is. Speaking from a chef's kitchen in her opulent mansion, Danny says she and her husband grew up in large homes and feel comfortable in the 600-square metre space, with its expansive living areas, sweeping "grand Hollywood" staircase leading to an open plan sitting room and bar, seven large bedrooms, decadent bathrooms and a movie room to boot.

Upstairs and down, much of the home can be opened up, with eight sets of bifold doors leading to the balcony and verandah.

The Witherlea home, high enough in the Wither Hills to give wide and unimpeded views of the region, won the Registered Master Builders' House of the Year supreme home in Marlborough in 2007.

Danny says the home was designed to lure their children and any future grandchildren back. "Every room we designed for our children. Made it like a five-star hotel so they can come and stay here with their children one day."

They are unmistakably proud of what they have created and are now preparing to share their home and their cooking with others, having set up the Angel Luxury Lodge, their newest business in the province.

Danny came to New Zealand from Cambodia in 1980 and met Kit soon after, when her father and he were studying English together in Dunedin.

She dreamed of running her own business and when the couple moved to Blenheim she established Golden Wonton takeaways on Grove Rd, selling it to her sister two years later when she and Kit set up the Chung Wah Palace restaurant in 1986.

They both worked hard "seven days and seven nights a week" for two decades, only shutting its doors in 2008 after Danny suffered a back injury, and she and Kit stepped back from work to enjoy their home and the burgeoning garden on their1.2-hectare section.

Gardening was new to them both on arrival in New Zealand, with little opportunity to nurture their green thumbs in Phnom Penh or Hong Kong.

Kit has planted big pots of carnations and chrysanthemums, which are common in his home city. The plants, used for medicinal teas and cooking in China, are of huge importance to the culture.

Kit has also planted a vegetable garden, which provides Asian greens for the kitchen, including Chinese broccoli, coriander and bok choy, which they allow to seed for the next year's crop.

''I was very lucky to find a husband who likes gardening as well,'' says Danny, whose bad back means she is limited to giving instructions while Kit gets stuck in.

The front garden, just three years old, is bordered by buxus and agapanthus, with dahlias for colour, and other plants for their good luck, including Chinese green jade, which indicates prosperity when it flowers.
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Two 18-year-old bonsai trees, traditionally kept very small in a pot but here relatively enormous outside, are trimmed by Danny every fortnight in summer.

They have big plans to develop the garden further, establish the lodge and teach others to cook the way they do, with Danny about to kick off a cooking class.

''I'm not going to open more restaurants. This is my second dream,'' she says'

Last updated 09:04 04/02/2011

Angel Lodge the home of Danny and Kit Young. Many of the seven bedrooms open on to the long wide balcony stretching along the front of the home.

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