Top chef returns

One of the Whakatipu’s most respected chefs is back in the kitchen.

Pete Gawron will serve the first meals in The Dining Room, at The Headwaters Eco Lodge in Glenorchy, tonight.

Gawron’s best known for his long-running Saffron restaurant, in Arrowtown — he earned recognition there as one of Conde Nast Travellers’ Top 100 Tables, and wrote well-regarded cookbooks, with recipes based on ingredients foraged from Central Otago.

In 2017, he and Melanie Hill sold Saffron, now Aosta, along with Agave restaurant (now Little Aosta), behind it, and The Blue Door, to local Flying Trestles catering company owners Vicky and Dave Arnold, jeweller Sir Michael Hill and other partners.

While Gawron’s been cooking for lodge guests for a while, The Dining Room’s opening means the wider public can also experience his creations, inspired by his travels all over the world, including in recent years Morocco, Thailand and Europe.

‘‘I’ve always seen cuisine as one of the windows into a culture,’’ he says.

‘‘It’s personally enriching, and also interesting for our guests to know that I’ve come back from my travels with authentic inspiration and my interpretation of recipes using ingredients we have right here.

‘‘You’d be surprised by what’s growing in our gardens and year-round glasshouse, and how the different ingredients are adapting to the Glenorchy microclimate.’’

The Headwaters has a year-round organic kitchen garden, and Gawron says there’s ‘‘nothing better’’ than preparing garden-to-table meals with their just-picked produce, and ingredients from Central Otago suppliers.

‘‘It’s a very special thing to be able to harvest your own produce and then, within hours, to cook it [and] present it.

‘‘It’s a uniquely holistic approach, and the food reflects this beautiful, creative environment.’’

A key element of the new restaurant will be a wine list to complement seasonal dishes — Gawron says they’re ‘‘completely, entirely blessed’’ to work in Glenorchy, which is a ‘‘stone’s throw away from one of the best Burgundy-style wine areas in the world’’.

Capping it all off is the new restaurant building, within the main lodge, which he says is a ‘‘masterpiece’’.

The Dining Room’s opening seven days a week to the public — reservations are essential.

Opened by founders Debbi and Paul Brainerd, United States philanthropists, in 2018, initially as Camp Glenorchy, The Headwaters Eco Lodge also established a locally-administered charitable trust, which returns profits to the wider Glenorchy community.

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