This is my friend Giulio Sturla. 

 

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We’ve known each other a while now. I’ve watched him catapult to the highest of highs, and be thrown to the deepest depths of despair. 

As one of New Zealand’s best chefs he asked me to lead Eat New Zealand, to find a way forward when it had stalled as ConversatioNZ, in the early days. We worked furiously on any possible solutions we could think of, surrounded by a pose of clever food people. The energy and dedication that he and the team at Roots put into a national food vision was epic, and very inspiring.

Somehow we got there. Somehow we keep getting there. Just. Finding another step with the help of some amazing people on the journey to recognition for Aotearoa’s unique food stories and culture. This in a world awash with homogeneity and industrial food systems. Some days it feels revolutionary, like a team of intrepid and determined travellers deep underground walking in a different direction, collecting the like-minded as we go.

I’m continually surprised by who joins our nuggety little band. People from all walks of life, those whose organisations historically lead us away from our connection to this place, but whom, when called upon as individuals, have revealed their true selves and have pushed with us. It makes me so hopeful.

So when this man, Giulio Sturla, starts to overcome some brutal personal blows, and asks for you to come and help him with a special series of dinners in one of the most remote and beautiful parts of the country, you say yes- immediately.

 

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And so it was as we wound our way through the breath-taking bays of the Queen Charlotte Sound in Marlborough last weekend.

My aunt had a bach in this part of the world when I was a child. And to be in this place on a summer’s day takes me straight back to being an eight year old, looking for Kōura or freshwater crayfish in a stream in Yncyca Bay. The sound of the cicadas is so loud it’s as if you have a lisp, and after a while you stop forming your ‘s’s properly, allowing the insects to fill in the gaps.

 

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Can you see the house?

The property in Waterfall Bay is owned by Michael Seresin, a NZ cinematographer and the name connected to Seresin Estate Wines. 

There is a main house, a lovely little cottage with heaps of accommodation, and a special event space complete with kitchen. It’s all hidden in the bush and almost invisible from the water.

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Nick on the wood fire.

 

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The cottage the dinners were held in.

It’s here that Nick & I helped Giulio with two special dinners. Nick on the wood fire and I helped out with the wines and front of house. It's been a few years between hospitality gigs, but It's amazing how it all comes back to you!

 

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We were joined by Giulio’s lovely partner Liz Carlson, and by friend & chef Alex Davies and his family; singer/songwriter Bryony Matthews and their daughter Hazel. ‘Team Giulio’ was completed by young chef Jackson and his partner Milly. 

 

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Alex, Giulio, Hazel & Bryony.

 

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Jackson fishing from the wharf.

Together we have various ways of story-telling; through food, words, music and photography, so it was a dream team to spend a few days with in such a remote and wonderful place.

It’s pretty difficult for us to go anywhere without collecting wild food, and Waterfall Bay offered up mussels, kina, sea eels, kawakawa berries and lots of plants, and there was plenty of time for swimming, paddle boarding and kayaking. 

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It was a wonderful place to celebrate friendship, woven around our unique food stories and culture. Where else can you serve food cooked over manuka, surrounded by native bush, explaining a dish serving local storm clamsss and have the cicadas finish the sentence for you, using a constellation of glow worms in the banks to light the path back to your bed afterwards?

 

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We live in the most wonderous place on earth.