Vaughan Mabee, an Auckland boy, started with apprenticeships in local restaurants. Hungry for more, he headed to California and bumped around the States for almost nine years, reaching executive chef level in his mid-twenties. In Spain, he landed in Barcelona at Lasarte – a leading Michelin-starred restaurant – to soak up the knowledge and techniques of renowned chef Martin Berasategui.
Learning the importance of place
An opportunity in 2009 to take an internship at Noma in Copenhagen took Vaughan into René Redzepi’s highly experimental culinary philosophy and his unique reinterpretation of Scandinavian cuisine. There Vaughan sensed the strong connection between food and place that can be made by foraging for unique and distinctive local ingredients. A love for the unique, quality products found in New Zealand is one of the many reasons for his return. It’s this love that now drives his menu, which gives a respectful nod to product and a true sense of place.
It’s a skill he has now honed to the point of perfection at Amisfield, where he hunts, gathers, and curates ingredients that tell an authentic story of the Central Otago landscape. Here, Vaughan Mabee is working closely with a team of which he is immensely proud. You get the feeling that he is just as curious and excited now as he was on his very first days on the pass, and he is quick to credit the talent that surrounds him
The natural state
The Chef is drawing inspiration from the land and the unique products that surround him. The creativity and innovation that comes out of this kitchen are something to watch closely and be proud of. Vaughan is a master at presenting a dish within fragments of its natural state and designs menus that take the diner far beyond a traditional structure.
“My philosophy comes from the land around me, and over the years, I have tried to inspire my team to think the same way that I do so we can all work together to create an experience that can only be found here and nowhere else in the world. When people come and dine in the restaurant, we really try to showcase what’s here and now in the area, and give them something that they can only get here in Central Otago”Vaughan Mabee