Growing up on a farm in Southland has shaped Adrian Walker to become the chef he is today. “In Southland, I developed a passion for produce. The quality of produce that was on hand down there is inspiring,” he told Hotel Magazine.
Walker has worked in Melbourne, Perth, Queenstown, Christchurch, Auckland, and now is cooking at the Bistro Lago restaurant, located at the Hilton Lake Taupo.
A big fan of working with chocolate; Walker’s favourite dish is chocolate fondant, a recurring dish of his. “The garnish changes to the season, but a correctly cooked fondant while using good ingredients is so indulgent,” Walker said.
Consistent flavours in the food is a theme of his, but the presentation of the meals changes with the trends of the time. He tries to keep up with these trends using the internet, primarily by scrolling through Instagram and watching Netflix’s food programming. Despite that, the old-fashioned method of chatting and networking with other chefs is still part of Walker’s approach to keeping on top of the times
Recently, Walker travelled to Indonesia. There he was taken on an adventure by the locals through the rainforests to see the natural cocoa and coffee bean plantations, as well as the rice fields that have been carved into the mountains and used for centuries.
As an up-and-coming young chef, the complexity of cooking soufflé was inspirational for Walker. “When I was first training to become a chef the complexity of a soufflé and cooking that to order really inspired me and taught me to be disciplined in following recipes, and the importance of cooking times and temperatures and trusting it.” He doesn’t only enjoy cooking intricate desserts such as chocolate fondant and soufflé; he also appreciates slow cooking, braising, and confit—dishes where the flavours can be released and infused.
His greatest accomplishment in the kitchen so far was when he catered for the FIFA Under-20 World Cup, held throughout New Zealand in 2015. “We had to cater for different countries that were dining at the same time, but not in the same dining space. The concept also catered for different ethnic requests. The concept was adopted by FIFA for future sporting tournaments.”
He cites Christchurch’s Tony Smith, Auckland’s Gareth Stewart, and Melbourne’s Simon Beaton as chef’s that have inspired him.
Walker plans to make the most of his time in Taupo, and in the future intends on connecting with more local producers in the area.