A second Kiwi celebrity chef is taking the plunge into the Queenstown restaurant scene.
Josh Emett opened his Rata lunch and dinner establishment at the bottom of Stanley Street back in May.
Now Simon Gault, who stars alongside Emett on reality TV series MasterChef New Zealand, has confirmed he’ll be opening a steakhouse with associated oyster bar in the downtown Sofitel hotel complex.
It’ll be Gault’s first foray into the South Island – he already has three restaurants in Auckland, two in Wellington and one in Taupo.
“We’ve been thinking about Queenstown for ages because it’s a cool town – and it’ll give us an excuse to come down basically,” Gault, a keen small airplane pilot, says.
Gault was in Queenstown last week with senior team members, getting them enthused about the site and brainstorming ideas.
“For me it’s a bit of a dream coming down here. I love restaurants, I love cooking and to be able to link it all up in a place like Queenstown is like the icing on the cake. If I say to my wife let’s go into Auckland while I go cooking, she’s probably not going to be too interested, but if I say let’s go to Queenstown for a month at a time, it’s somewhat more appealing.”
Gault says it’s just a coincidence Emett and he are opening local spots in the same year.
“But it’s something I would have thought is quite cool for Queenstown.
“We’ve been looking for sites off and on for years – this one came up and we thought this suits what we want to do.”
The name is still being finalised but Gault plans a streetside oyster bar at the bottom of the Brecon Street steps, linking to the main dining area which will seat about 100. The interior will feature bricks from Christchurch.
Gault says he doesn’t think they’ll open for lunch, believing Queenstown is well-catered for there, and he adds it won’t be a fine dining place.
“We’re not going out to be the most expensive restaurant in town. It’s absolutely not fine dining. We’re a steakhouse, we’re about coming out, getting looked after, eating fantastic food and having a heap of fun.”
Gault expects to close the main restaurant during the shoulder season, catering for about 30 in the oyster bar.
“We’ll do some pretty cool things for the locals in that period … might be half a cray for $19, a dozen oysters for $19 … I’ll really look after people.”
Asked if Queenstown’s big enough for two celebrity chefs, Gault replies: “Of course. Josh’s ego is way bigger than mine, the only thing he’s got on me is the girls like him more. Josh is a great guy.
“Good operators make the town better. A lot of local operators will go, ‘okay, the pie is a little bit smaller’, but at the end of the day good operators always survive and being surrounded by good operators is a great deal for everybody.”
The new restaurant is expected to open in November.