You’ve worked all over the world – how did New Zealand steal your heart?
I’d been living and working in Europe as a chef for years when I had the option of going home to the States or following up on a contact with chef Vaughan Mabee. When I found myself in a time of transition, Vaughan said, “Why don’t you come to New Zealand?” I didn’t even know where it was on the map, so I thought I’d just be here for a short period. I’ve been here six years now, and my partner and I have just bought a house.
Does that surprise you?
Yes. But everything’s worked out so well. I love the lifestyle – it’s so safe down here and people are so friendly. There’s such a sense of community. It’s a very wholesome place to live and the food scene is so up-and-coming. The produce, the raw products we have here, are exceptional.
What makes Arrowtown so special?
Maybe it’s my age, being in my mid-thirties, but I love walking my dog along the river. I love walking to my brew shed in the morning, collecting my thoughts, taking it all in. Then after finishing at the brewery, I walk to our restaurant, La Rumbla, and at this time of year with the autumn colours, it’s just stunning.
You make it sound like a dream.
I do have to pinch myself sometimes. I’m from the city, from LA, and all of a sudden I live in this beautiful old-time town.
What makes the region so special for making beer?
We use incredible hops from Nelson – they’re world-class. And I’ve been experimenting with putting local acorns into our porter, and a local pepperbush called horopito goes in our Saison. Although possibly the most underrated ingredient in beer-making, the water down here is perfect. It’s completely untreated, which makes it great for brewing.
What about the local produce?
Locally there are pretty drastic seasonal changes. My favourite time is from late summer to early autumn – there’s the last of the juicy stone fruit hanging around, still a bit of sweet corn, but more excitingly, there are lovely parsnips, black kale, chestnuts and Jerusalem artichokes appearing.
Running a restaurant and making beer, that’s a lot of work. Is there any time for leisure?
Oh yes. There’s snowboarding in winter – everyone’s really excited for that – and during summer I go for hikes and bike rides. I also love running and using the trails.
What are your top tips for visitors?
I always take people to Glenorchy, to the top of the lake – it’s like no place on earth. Locally, spending a chill-out day at The Fork and Tap is a must. We also take people to Queenstown and show them Steamer Wharf – that view is breathtaking – and there are so many great restaurants and shops in Queenstown. Cycling from Arrowtown to Gibbston makes the perfect day. Or we just go halfway to the bungy bridge and watch people jumping off. It’s just so awesome here.