Saturday, September 08, 2012

TV chef makes mark in River City

Kathryn King | Saturday, January 22, 2011 17:00 New Flavour: Award-winning chef Dean Wong (front) is bringing new dining experiences to Anne and Dion Ngatai's Anndion Lodge. Wanganui foodies rejoice, there's a new culinary dream-team in town. Anndion Lodge owners Anne and Dion Ngatai have joined up with chef Dean Wong to bring a new kind of dining experience to Wanganui. Mr Wong, an multi-award winning chef who appeared for a year on Good Morning and came fifth in Hell's Kitchen New Zealand, moved here more than a year ago. When the work he was doing here finished, he decided to stay, working as a private chef until a fortuitous visit to the chamber of commerce put him on to Anne and Dion's restaurant plans. Together they started running a buffet at the lodge every Sunday, converting the conference room into a dining room, and serving bar meals from the Harley Bar. Now about three months in, the venture has so far been a winner and the trio have big plans. "These guys have won their own business awards, and I have my own culinary awards, so I think we have a similar work ethic about trying to give the best," Mr Wong said. He said he wanted to change the way people viewed buffets. Rather than loading an enormous plateful of food, and losing the distinct flavour of each dish, Mr Wong said he would be introducing small portions. The idea was that people return to the buffet numerous times to try different items and get the full flavour of each dish. The concept also alleviated much of the food wastage seen at traditional buffets, he said. The buffet meals included steak cooked to order, hot dishes, salads and desserts. Mr Wong said he wanted to re-introduce handmade food with flavour that machine-made food couldn't compete with. While the dishes would change seasonally, a few favourites, like his award-winning mousses, could become menu staples. Since the new branch of the lodge opened, Mr Wong has catered birthdays, held poolside barbecues, and has two weddings on the horizon. Classically trained in French and English cooking, Mr Wong said he had experience in a variety of cuisines, including German, Italian, Chinese and Japanese. He had worked with New Zealand seafood and Pacific rim/fusion cuisine were among his specialties. Mr Wong said he had a fresh food philosophy, which meant he would buy the basics, but liked to make everything from scratch, including his sauces, condiments and chutneys. He even grows his own herbs. When the restaurant expanded and got busier, he would make his own sausages and prosciutto ham. The couple said in future they wanted to incorporate live music into the restaurant and do hangi food. They also wanted to do more degustation meals. These meals focus on careful tasting and savouring small portions of food. "It's going to be an exciting year for us, it's a complete package," Anne Ngatai said. People are surprised, they don't realise that this is here, and that it's a beautiful room."

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