Denise Irvine chats to some of the faces of Feast Waikato, this time Giulio Sturla
About: Chef Giulio Sturla formerly ran the three-hatted Roots restaurant in Lyttelton, and in 2018 he was named Cuisine magazine’s Chef of the Year. He has recently started a new project, Mapu, in Lyttelton, a dining space for up to six people. He describes it as a chef’s dream: “It is just me, I do everything. There is no waiter. I don’t call it a restaurant; it is like being in someone’s house, where someone else is cooking for you. It is a very private place, a special concept. People have responded well.”
Event: Almuerzo Blanco, An Autumnal Affair, Sunday lunch, April 4, at Willowbrook Park, 15 Vaile Rd, Hamilton.
First kitchen job?
I was born in Chile but my parents moved to Ecuador and I grew up there. My first kitchen job was at a new Hilton hotel in Guayaquil, Ecuador. I love food, I’m a big eater, and I loved the environment, the vibe, at the hotel. I was there for two years and then I went to cooking school in Chile.
Describe your cooking style?
I am creative, I am driven by flavour rather than style. My food is very simple but it has been in the making for months. It is all about the flavour. I make my own soy sauce, my own miso, and fish sauce. These are long processes and I look after them like a baby. I am cooking paua in a sauce that has been in the making since last September. When you taste something at my place, you can only taste it with me.
Why New Zealand?
I grew up in a big city and I knew there had to be a different kind of life, in a different place. New Zealand was an island very far away and I was looking for a place where you can travel around and find beautiful places and ingredients. I came here 13 years ago. I love nature, the good food here, and not many people. I didn’t intend to stay but I am very happy in New Zealand. This is the place to be.
What’s drawn you to support Feast?
There is always new food to be discovered in New Zealand, I like an opportunity to find new ingredients and Feast does this. I know the Waikato and there are many different things I know I can find there for my event.
Give us a hint about what you’ll be cooking?
It will be very seasonal, with Waikato ingredients. One thing will be pan de yuca (cheese bread) maybe made with Meyer pecorino and a goat milk cheese. I will bring my unique sauces and flavours.
Best food find in Aotearoa this summer?
Beautiful rock melons and watermelons from Hawke’s Bay, they are very good. And myoga ginger, a Japanese ginger that is grown by a Japanese family in Wellington. It is such a find. I’m thinking about what I will use it with, maybe with my duck taco.
Work obsession that you are best known for?
I really can define a kitchen by how clean the dishwasher is. It has to be spotless, I clean mine every night!