By Leigh O'Connor.
up under the snow-covered slopes of Mount Taranaki, Ben Shewry has always been in
tune with the New Zealand outdoors.
on the West Coast of the North Island, Taranaki is more known for nurturing
All Blacks than world renowned Master Chefs, a fact not lost on this Attica mastermind.
first book Origin pays homage to his Kiwi upbringing and has been a catalyst to
his Melbourne restaurant being consistently regarded as one of the world’s best,
ranked 32 last year and as high as 21 in 2013.
am extremely driven,” he tells AGFG. "It has taken me a long time to
acknowledge that. I am driven by myself, not other people. What we have
achieved was never done for the accolades and attention - that was never the
want Attica to get better, more delicious, more direct and also to engage more
in the community. We are always looking forward to improve on every level –
from the working conditions of our staff to the physical space of the
decided at age 5 he wanted a culinary career… how did he know?
thought about that a lot over the years. I’m not sure why, but I had such huge
cooking influences in my life through my Mum and grandmother. It was always my
passion and goal throughout childhood and high school.
early days were interesting, a very different path to young Chefs now, who work
in some of the best restaurants in the world. I worked at good, honest local
businesses which have influenced me in ways that are unique.”
early memories of Taranaki revolve around life on the family farm, the overwhelming
shadow of the mountain and taking advantage of everything the province has to
offer – surfing, fishing, snowboarding, whitebaiting… the list goes on.
by Lonely Planet as the second-best region in the world to visit in 2017, Taranaki
is a Winter wonderland with skiing and snowboarding available on the Manganui ski field, as well as surf swells that lure adrenalin junkies from
around the globe. An abundance of early snow this year, means Manganui will be
the first field in the country to open for the season.
also shines in Spring and Summer months with the Pukeiti Rhododendron Festival in October, the Festival of Lights at Pukekura Park from December to February
and internationally acclaimed WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and
Dance) in March.
there’s the rugged coastline, black volcanic sand, awesome waves, Paritutu rock
and the mind-blowing Sugar Loaf Islands, rising out of the sea
surrounding the harbour – eroded stumps of an ancient volcanic crater, just off
the coast of New Plymouth.
a stroll along the coastal walkway from the Port to Bell Block, passing
Waiwhakaiho River and its surf break and over the iconic Te Rewa Rewa bridge, where functionality meets
fine art and the arched gateway reveals a majestic view of the mountain. Also, a
Naki native, I relish any opportunity to visit this stunningly spectacular
region we are blessed to call home.
a traditional economic background of farming, in the last 30 years the province
has become a hot bed of oil and gas exploration both on and offshore, making it
one of the most liveable and economically viable cities in New Zealand.
Plymouth boasts the motto ‘Surf in the morning – ski in the afternoon,’ as well
as local surf shop Taranaki Hardcore’s mantra: ‘God created
Taranaki so the Hardcore people would have some place to live!’
hard core was certainly the upbringing Ben had on an isolated sheep and cattle
farm, up Awakau Road halfway into the treacherous Awakino Gorge – at least two
hours’ drive from any real township. Decades before it was fashionable, they
lived off the land and Ben recalls a pantry stocked by Mum Kaye’s preserves and
jams; watching his father Rob butcher stock and gaining an understanding of
where food comes from.
and his two sisters Tess and Tamie went to the local school, where their mother
was teacher-principal and administrator to the all of seven students. Life was
a constant adventure, foraging and discovering what could and couldn’t be
eaten, from puha to succulents.
drawn to the ocean from his teenage years, Ben found solace in surfing the
waves off the coast, returning to shore feeling almost enlightened. All these
experiences have moulded his culinary style to be at one with nature; people
call him the Foraging Chef, but that is just something Kiwis do.
was part of everyday life, we didn’t know any other way and it was a very
economical way to eat. Everything tasted better… anyone who has a garden knows
that. It was a very simple, beautiful way of life, but people aren’t interested
up in such an environment, Ben and his sisters made their own fun; they had
creative freedom and were encouraged to take things into their own hands.
had responsibility and trust from Mum and Dad, it was a very different life to
what my children experience today. That’s why as a family we try to get out of
town and do things in the country. In saying that, my kids also have the
advantages of city living that I didn’t have - such as playing organised sport,
access to cultural activities and art.”
is from these memories, he shares a recipe with AGFG readers: potatoes cooked in the earth
they were grown in. Paying
tribute to Maori culture, it is Ben’s oven version of a hangi - where fish, chicken, pork
and root vegetables are cooked underground on hot stones.
are aware the earth is the giver of all life, from the soil comes food and that
same food is cooked beneath the earth.
of passion, let’s explore another area of Ben’s life – basketball.
a son named Kobe, it begged the question are you, or were you ever an LA
was more of a coincidence to call my son Kobe. I played basketball in high
school, back when Michael Jordan was the big thing. Then when
we were expecting our son, Kobe Bryant’s name popped up and we went with it.”
his namesake, Kobe Shewry is an extremely capable ball player, already at rep
level in the point/shooting guard position – drawing inspiration from NBA
greats like Cleveland’s LeBron James and Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry.
always enjoyed shooting the ball and when Kobe starting bouncing one around
about age five, it reunited my enthusiasm. I went on to coach his team for four
years – a great thing to share with my son.”
a Canadian grandmother, Ben says it was only natural he and Kobe are Toronto Raptors’ fans. But with their team out of the NBA playoffs, we both
agree on a likely 2018 champion – GS Warriors!
Ben, for such a great insight into your origins.
Ben’s wine pairing for his
Greywacke Wild Sauvignon
Blanc 2015 –
fermented entirely with naturally occurring yeast, this New Zealand wine is an
alternative style of Sauvignon Blanc, that is both intricate and textural with
a rich, generous palate. It has decadent patisserie aromatics – brioche,
homemade apricot jam and lemon curd, layers of nectarine, yellow peach and ripe
pineapple – infused with herbal nuances of tarragon and thyme.
Greywacke is the Marlborough label of Kevin Judd (formerly of Cloudy
Bay), named in recognition of the high prevalence of rounded greywacke river
stones in the soils of the vineyard. Primarily based on two varieties –
Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir – there are also limited-edition releases of
Chardonnay and three aromatic varieties, Pinot Gris, Riesling and