Ok, so you know who Josh Emett is – the devilishly handsome, Michelin-starred chef who boasts restaurants such as Rata and Ostro, or as my mum calls him, “the hot judge from MasterChef”.
But, as it turns out, he’s got a better half, and it’s finally her time to shine.
Helen Emett is cool – there’s just no better word for it. Striding through her new restaurant Onslow with purpose, she’s one of those people who just looks effortlessly hip – jeans, tee and a blazer have somehow combined together in an outfit that looks like something out of the glossy fashion magazines you never buy but take a peek at when you’re at the fancy hairdressers.
She’s also clearly and monumentally excited about the first ever restaurant she and husband Josh have opened together, and as she says to Capsule, it’s been a long road to get here after dedicating the last 10 years to raising the couple’s two sons.
“Everything has just come together in the most wonderful way,” she tells.
“From the name of the restaurant Onslow – we named it after the Earl and Countess of Onslow, who opened the hotel which once stood here, but it’s also personal for me as it was at the Onslow Gardens in London where my parents first started dating. So, this really is a culmination of a lot of things in a lot of ways for us.”
While she’s quick to clarify she’s not a chef, Helen’s been a foodie for as long as she can remember. Growing up in the UK, she recalls she was a little different to the other kids – street food in Asian countries and frog legs in France were highlights of holidays, and when her dad once told her she could do anything for one special day out, all Helen wanted to do was go for a curry.
“It just felt like magic,” she says with a smile. “The ceilings of the restaurant were all silk, and the music was playing and the colours everywhere were dark wood and gold, and of course the food was amazing. I felt like I had been transported.
“And Dad was happy, because all he had to do was take me down the road for a curry! So yeah, I think I was always a foodie.”
Food did however take a little bit of a backseat when the adventurous Helen began working in recruiting for a top investment bank in London – however, that was where she first discovered New Zealand, after recruiting many Kiwis into jobs.
“I ended up with heaps of Kiwi mates, and then I moved to New York,” Helen tells.
It was there she met a jazzy young chef by the name of Josh Emett – although when her friends told her about him, Helen imagined he just worked at the greasy diner down the road.
“And then it was like, nope, he has two Michelin stars and works with Gordon Ramsay!” she laughs.
The pair quickly fell in love, and eventually found their way back home to New Zealand, having their two boys along the way and finally putting down roots in Auckland, which now feels very much like home.
It was also time for Helen to get her groove back, so to speak – and “without knowing anything” about marketing, taught herself the basics in order to promote Josh’s cookbook The Recipe.
“I just started following different people on social media and Youtube, and did every online course I could find,” she says.
“I wrote notes, notes, notes, and I figured out a formula. I just thought, we could do this.”
What resulted were the instantly classic cooking videos, filmed by Helen and starring Josh that took over Instagram – especially during Level 4 lockdown.
“It was a bit of a breakthrough for me,” she nods.
“I knew the pain point – it was everyone going “what am I going to eat?” I thought, does everyone have the same rotation? Because trust me, even when you live with a chef, there are the same six dishes that get cooked every week in our house!”
During this time, Helen and Josh were looking for a site to open their first restaurant together – Josh on the menu, Helen on pretty much everything else, and they fell in love as soon as they saw what was to be Onslow.
It’s a fancy restaurant, but done with a certain Kiwi laid-backness. Like, you’d happily bring Nana for your birthday lunch, or pop in for a special third date to prove you’re a sophisticate, or for a girls’ lunch with strong cocktails and food that’s most definitely a treat.
You can even order salmon gravadlax and cheese off a trolley by your table in an homage to the site’s history as a hotel, so it’s a place sprinkled with special.
“We want people to feel the experience,” she says.
“It’s been an incredible experience already.”