Paper Daisy Chef Crossing the Tasman for Auckland Restaurant Month

Chef Ben Devlin, of Queensland's Paper Daisy, will cook with Gareth Stewart at Euro next month


Chef Ben Devlin of Paper Daisy. Picture / Supplied

Byron Bay-born Ben Devlin does the busman’s holiday with ample panache.

Consider his wedding plans, for starters. The surfer chef will be holding his nuptials at Halcyon House: the sleek New South Wales boutique hotel which houses Paper Daisy, the restaurant where he’s in charge. Of course he won’t be doing the catering on the day, but he’s written the menu and will be heavily involved in the prep.

Then comes the honeymoon. Ben and his new bride will be taking it in New Zealand — where he’ll punctuate the break with an appearance at Euro.

There, Ben will be showcasing the tastes from Paper Daisy as part of Auckland Restaurant Month. In doing so, he’s hoping to boost transtasman relationships by supplementing native products he can’t bring from his homeland with our local equivalents.

An example: Paper Daisy’s signature Australian pipi dish will pop up at Euro — using tuatua as a replacement. “So it’s tuatua with New Zealand spinach, lemon myrtle and macadamia milk — quite a simple dish, but a tasty one too,” says Ben by phone from Cabarita Beach, where he is now based.

Queensland’s Chef of the Year (2014) has a lengthy and impressive CV. He started out when just 14 in his hometown. “I definitely grew into food. I had my heart set on shaping surfboards [as a career] but I got work washing dishes.” He was soon hooked on the kitchen life. “From there I realised that was where I wanted to find myself.”

And find himself he did — first at Urbane in Brisbane, later at Esquire in the same state — with a lengthy stint at Noma in the middle. The Australian two share a swag of hats (Melbourne Good Food Guide Awards — three) and stars (Michelin — two) between them.

Noma in Copenhagen and all its accolades is a big leap for a surfer boy from the Byron, as Ben readily admits.

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“When I first got there, I felt a bit out of my depth — at the time it was the No 3 restaurant in the world (it later reached No 1). But the thing I loved the most was that it was a small restaurant that grew and grew, and it still had the soul of a small restaurant.”

No matter its international stature. You still had to go out to the shops when you ran out of something, he explains.

For Ben, the way to a diner’s heart has much to do with the head. Consider his food philosophy. “When I’m thinking of dish, I’m thinking ‘how do I want this person to feel?’ I want people to feel very happy — not just my guests, but the staff too.”

Before he went to Noma, Ben says he didn’t have much knowledge of his own environment. Now it is key to all he does. At Paper Daisy, he strives for it to be a gastronomic representation of all the area’s abundant bounty.

They source it to the point he will go foraging for some of his ingredients. To give you just a taste: the cheeses are locally produced; the coal-roasted fish (local of course) is served with finger lime and curry leaf.

The Sydney Morning Herald 2017 Good Food Guide named Paper Daisy NSW Regional Restaurant of the Year. Now Ben wants to bring that experience here.

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And he wants to throw himself into our world as well. Between the honeymoon and Euro, he’s hoping to fit in a bit of surfing. Maybe Raglan, he says. “But if I did, I’d go looking for some seaweed too.” He is forever the forager.

• A Taste of Paper Daisy. Euro. Wednesday, August 16. Tickets $200 (includes a drink on arrival with canapes and five courses with matching wines). To book, go to Iticket.co.nz

DON’T MISS:
Relish and Roam. Thursday, August 17. Back by popular demand for its fifth year, the Britomart progressive dinner is bigger than ever. This is the first event of two in the downtown precinct. Oaken, Ostro, Amano and Miann are the participating restaurants on the first night; you get one course and a beverage match at each, plus the chance to win a Tesla for a weekend. Tickets for this R18 event cost $180 each.

The Fourth Annual Food and Wine Celebration. Auckland Restaurant Month would not be complete without the New Zealand School of Food and Wine. This year, events include a #Foodography Dinner (food and beverage experts and food bloggers share their tips on how to style and capture food imagery on your phone). And on Sunday, August 20, the school invites you to be a guest chef for the night, with a celebration dinner.

Samir Allen from K Rd’s Gemmayze St will be leading proceedings, with a Lebanese dinner and matching Lebanese wines. That same day, there’ll be a New Zealand Sommelier and Junior Sommelier of the Year competition. For more information, contact the New Zealand School of Food & Wine, 104 Customs St West.

• For more events and how to book, visit Heartofthecity.co.nz

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