Sunday, May 28, 2023

Christmas With the Chefs: Mike van de Elzen & Gareth Stewart Share Their Secrets

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These two well-known Kiwi faces really do know their way around the kitchen, so, who better to go to for some tips and tricks for making Christmas a little less stressful! Mike van de Elzen & Gareth Stewart reflect on the year that was, while giving us a peek into their own kitchens this Christmas…

Mike Van de Elzen

With a passion for healthy eating, Mike van de Elzen has become one of NZ’s best known faces in the kitchen – and we’ll be seeing a lot more of him next year when he returns for another season of Eat Well for Less!

Mike and his wife Belinda (Bee!)

When the sun rose on January 1 2020, Mike was determined that it was going to be his year. He’d had an absolute shocker of a year leading up to it – he was diagnosed with throat cancer (which threatened his voice), had a motorcycle accident that left him with a broken ankle, two torn knee ligaments and a severely bruised back, lost his stepfather in-law to cancer, then a few weeks later one of his best friends was killed in a car accident. Surely 2020 had to be a better year?!

2020 has certainly had its challenges for Mike – it was a tricky year to launch a Cookery School! – but it’s also had many a silver lining. Here’s what Mike has to say about it and what his tips are for a magical Christmas Day…

Hi Mike! What a year 2020 has been. How have you found this year, and what have you learned? 
It’s been a tricky year. We launched the Good from Scratch Cookery School in January, a dream many years in the making for my wife and I. And then Covid hit. Lockdown was hard, but the stunning views from our lifestyle block did help. Since Auckland came out of lockdown the second time, we have been very busy which is great. I’ve learnt to take another second to appreciate what we’ve built as a family, and that together we can get through anything.

As we roll into the festive season, how are you feeling about celebrating Christmas this year?
Feeling very ready to celebrate! We are fully booked for Christmas functions and cooking classes in December so we are looking forward to having some downtime over the break!

Are you someone who typically goes big when it comes to celebrating Christmas?
Not really, we tend to have a low key day with the family with continuous grazing! 

How will you be spending it this year?
Relaxing on our lifestyle block, with Bee, our two daughters and our dog Hector! 

What’s your favourite Christmas dish and drink?
Green Meadows Beef skirt steak cooked on the Engel fire, accompanied by a green salad made from our garden and a hazy IPA beer.

What are your favourite ways to use up the good old Christmas ham?
Bee and I love making up fresh bread, grabbing veges from our garden and making up a homemade relish to use up Christmas ham in sandwiches. We run on leftover Christmas ham for days!

What’s the best tip or trick you’ve learned to make Christmas less stressful?
Prepare food that won’t spoil earlier than Christmas Day. If you have the time, things like salad dressing can be made the day before.

Do you have a final Christmas message to everyone reading?
Keep safe and well over the break, and we hope to see you at the Good from Scratch Cookery School in 2021!

Mike, Bee and their two gorgeous daughters – Hazel and Ivy.

Gareth Stewart

It’s been an eventful year for the renowned chef, who is now the national executive chef for Nourish Group. Besides being a genius in the kitchen (he landed his first big gig at just 18 at Claridge’s Hotel in London before joining the team at the Michelin-starred The Greenhouse in Mayfair), and an occasional tv-star (thanks to My Kitchen Rules New Zealand), he’s also the best man to go to for advice on where to eat out in New Zealand.

He’s been living on our shores for 13 years now, and is in charge on Christmas this year, so we had a quick chat about what’s on the menu this year.

Living so far away from relatives, Gareth says he’ll fire up Zoom to connect with family back home, but then, it’s phones off the rest of the time to disconnect from the world and really connect with the loved ones he’s surrounded by…

Hi Gareth! Has 2020 changed your approach to life at all – how you work/think or your value system?
Don’t take anything for granted, as I’ve learned things can change in instant. The world has seen something we’ve never seen before and it’s shown us how much we don’t actually need – we can make do with less.

How will you be spending Christmas this year?
The same way as always, just with my family at home. I always start the morning off with a glass of Champagne and Eggs Benedict before getting stuck into preparing Christmas dinner. Always with the phone off.

Do you embrace the Kiwi BBQ, or do you prefer to put on the full English Christmas spread?
Full English – I just can’t do it any other way. It’s nostalgic for me, I feel like I’m still getting used to a warm Christmas.

What’s your favourite Christmas dish and drink?
My favourite bit is the turkey sandwiches at supper. Paired with a sherry – I quite like a sherry around Christmas time.

What are your favourite ways to use up the good old Christmas ham?
I favour a turkey over a ham but it always ends up in between two slices of bread! Yum.

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