We were delighted to get through to the finals in the Most Sustainable Small Business Category and have already received some great coverage regarding our paddock to plate ethos and how we try to live and work sustainably. The awards ceremony takes place on October 26th so watch this space :-)
A few weeks ago I witnessed Brad work around 90 hours in the week leading up to Mother's Day. As a chef, he has always worked long hours, stood for long days side by side with other soldiers in the kitchen, giving his all in the pursuit of perfection on the plate, aiming to please our guests. Its part of the job he says, it’s the norm .
I think he is one of the few people I know that truly feels fulfilled by his job and he has done so throughout his career. He is so passionate about food and he’s truly dedicated to his craft, often making personal sacrifices in order to deliver the perfect guest experience.
The pursuit of perfection comes at a cost and I have recently come to realise that the biggest sacrifice in hospitality is personal health and well being. This was particularly evident in the week leading up to Mother’s Day, with everyone working to a deadline to be ready for one of the biggest days of the year in the restaurant world. The pressure was palpable and I witnessed it first hand amongst our team. I also observed that whilst this type of teamwork is critical to the success of a business like ours, our culture of “ camaraderie” also has a flip side in that no-one would have even considered to call in sick, regardless of how ill they felt, for fear of “ letting down the team”.
This is a highly charged emotional industry that thrives on pressure. Both chefs and Front Of House staff will tell you that they love the adrenalin buzz of a busy service. However the long term effects of this relentless pressure, which is reinforced by increasing customer expectations and fuelled by the growth of social media, is starting to become more evident. Add to the mix the lack of available staff in the sector meaning long hours, isolation, lack of sleep and leading to increased drug and alcohol abuse – its clear to see we are an industry in crisis. I have been reflecting on this over the past few weeks and todays news that Anthony Bourdain committed suicide has resonated deeply with me . His book "Kitchen Confidential" was his professional memoir and a behind-the-scenes look at restaurant kitchens. He exposed the dark side of hospitality and provided insightful and humorous anecdotes whilst detailing some of his personal misdeeds and weaknesses, including drug use. It was probably the first book that really highlighted the underbelly of our industry.
It's made me realise that as hospitality employers, it is critical that employee welfare is at the forefront of our business. It is evident that there are health risks associated with this sector, particularly with regards to mental health and as such we need to ensure that we are doing everything we can to limit these risks. Just as we do as parents, we need to lead by example and support our employees while they tackle this tricky equation of dedicating themselves to this high pressure industry, coping with it's demands and try to balance their work and life balance. This is to ensure that in the future, there are less cases like Anthony Bourdain, who has given so much to this industry, but tragically at such a personal cost.
Join us on Thursday 20th of July at 6PM for a unique Wine & Food tasting night!!!
As the colder weather settled in and the Winter Blues knocked at our door we though this was the perfect occasion to organize our annual Wine & Food degustation.
We'll have the fire roaring in our Bistro Barn and Brad has created an amazing 4 course degustation menu which will be matched with wines chosen by our wine guru, Jim Bartee from Finer Wines.
Have a look on here for the detailed wine & food menu
Book now by emailing us on email@example.com or give us a ring on 07 863 8770
Only $100 per person *Prepayment required
See you there!
Here at The Falls Retreat we try to focus on using fresh, seasonal produce coming out our veggie gardens and we have also applied this ethos to our range of home made sodas, using fresh herbs and seasonal fruit to create a range of non alcoholic drinks.
Our Ginger Ninja drink was developed as an alternative to the high sugar ginger beers available off the shelf and was a real hit when we served it at our last garden workshop.
I had promised to share the recipe so here we go :
Makes 1 bottle of ginger cordial. Keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks
500ml of Water
250g peeled ginger
120 ml of honey
Zest of 1.5 limes + 60ml of juice ( 1/2 lemon and 1/2 lime)
Handful of lemon balm
1. Peel the ginger & roughly chop
2. Measure out the honey and warm until liquid
3. Zest the limes and squeeze 30ml of lime juice & 30ml of lemon juice
4. Measure out 500ml of warm water
5. Blitz all ingredients together (best to do this in 2 batches)
*Make sure to blitz well, around 30 seconds for each batch, do this twice
7. Place the mixture in a pot on the stove to simmer for 40 minutes
8. Cool, strain and pour into a bottle/container and keep refrigerated
To serve pour 30ml of cordial in a glass with ice and add your favorite fizzy drink (soda for a dry version or lemonade for a sweeter option).
SERVING TIP: Serve in your favourite mug with 30ml cordial, boiling water and a teaspoon of honey for a healthy Winter warmer!
Come and celebrate Mother's day with us on Sunday 13th of May and enjoy a specially prepared 3 course meal for only $65 per person.
Brad has created unique dishes using seasonal ingredients have a look on HERE to view the menu.
Treat the mothers in your life and make them feel special by booking a table now on
07 863 8770
The sun was shining for our inaugural kids gardening workshop on Monday 16th January - our aim was to inspire kids and their parents to get growing at home and so several eager and willing little gardeners turned up with their parents for an interactive session with our resident gardening expert, Nicki Murray-Orr. The workshop kicked off with a session on identifying the various herbs, veggies and edible flowers in the kitchen gardens and then harvesting a bounty of fresh produce for the chefs to use that day. With carrot pulling being the firm favourite, the kids also harvested rhubarb, capsicums, tomatoes, beans, salad greens and edible flowers, all tasting the delicious fresh produce for themselves as they went along. Nicki got everyone to experience the compost heap first hand, looking at what we use and the "lasagne" effect required to make great compost whilst being able to answer parents questions about worm farming and how to create your own on smaller scale. Then onto an interactive session on seedling planting with each participant involved in planting their own sunflower seed and Nicki giving invaluable tips and techniques about planting and transplanting. Everyone got to keep their potted sunflower seed, together with a dwarf bean and calendular flower that we had lovingly grown in our glasshouse as something for our budding little gardeners to each take home to kick start their gardens . Parents gave us great feedback about the session being very informative and fun for adults and kids alike. The kids were amazing and it was inspiring to see how involved and interested they all were. They have promised to send photos of their seedlings in progress so watch this space!
Finally the weather has picked up and have been looking for some inspiration for dinner! Have borrowed one of Brad's recipes - full of flavour but easy to put together and suitable of a home cook. I used free range eggs from our chooks and from the garden I picked l the herbs and a lemon for the marinade, plus radishes, red cabbage and lettuces. I replaced the red and green oak lettuces in the recipe for 2 x Canasta's, which we are currently growing. It has a red tinged leaf which looks great and it also retains its crispness after picking (a great choice which can be purchased from King Seeds). If you can't face making your own mayo, just buy a good quality store bought one although I have to admit the horseradish mayo recipe does I've it that wow factor! Happy cooking :-)
1. Preheat the oven to 120 °C. Slice a tiny piece from the base of the tomatoes so they will sit upright. Pour 100 ml of olive oil into a small bowl & roll each tomato through oil then season with salt & pepper.
Sit upright in a pan big enough to hold tomatoes in a one layer.
2. Prick eggs with a fine pin, than boil for 9 minutes, refresh under cold water. Shell & halve them.
3. Soak capers in warm water, rinse & dry well with paper towel. Fry capers in hot vegetable oil for 30 seconds then dry on paper towel.
4. To make horseradish mayonnaise, whisk egg yolks, mustard salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Slowly add the combined oils in a steady stream being careful to emulsify well between each addition. Add last of the oil until quite thick and acidulate with a little vinegar, whisk in the horseradish and season to taste. It should be thick enough to coat the salad ingredients and taste hot and acidic.
5. Rub a little olive oil over the lamb & season with salt and pepper. Place the lamb on a cast iron skillet (or BBQ) on medium heat for 3 minutes. Turn over & cook for a further 3 minutes. Rest in a warm place for 5 minutes.
6. Place a generous thread of oil and a splash of vinegar over the lettuce leaves, watercress, cabbage, mung beans and mustard leaves and eggs and gently toss with a sprinkling of sea salt.
7. Toss eggs in a little oil and sea salt. Distribute salad leaves between 4 plates. Slice lamb into 2-3mm thick slices and arrange over salad. Distribute cornichons, spring onions, anchovies, parmesan, cherry tomatoes and eggs. Dress with horseradish mayonnaise.
Over the past 5 years, Brad has developed a relationship with Beef + Lamb NZ thanks to winning their Excellence Award consecutively since opening the Bistro doors. This month they interviewed him about our recent paddock to plate journey, which began when we bought a steer to graze in our paddock and continued through to using the beef as the star attraction at our 5th Birthday Celebration Dinner
An interview with Brad King
How has the Bistro grown and evolved over the last five years to meet your paddock to plate ethos?
The Bistro is situated on a six acre lifestyle block in the Karanagahake Gorge. We always had a vision for The Falls Retreat to have its own vegetable gardens supplying the Bistro kitchen and over the past five years these gardens have grown accordingly. We have now really started to focus on using seasonal vegetables and reducing our carbon footprint by also sourcing from local suppliers. We even do "Barter at the Bistro" where locals bring in their excess produce in exchange for a coffee or a pizza and a chat to the chefs.
How did the idea of purchasing a cattle beast come about?
As word about our paddock to plate ethos spread, we were approached by a local farmer (our kids go to the same school which incidentally has won an Envirogold Award for its commitment to sustainability). He was wondering if we wanted to buy one of his Dexter/Galloway steers, raised on a bio dynamic farm, with the view to using the meat at the Bistro. This sparked my interest and I wanted to explore this opportunity.
What challenges were there to get the beef from paddock to plate?
Well as with all great ideas, it's never plain sailing! We purchased the bull and organised a local farmer to deliver him to The Falls Retreat. However, his trailer got bogged in as there had been so much rain and we ended up having to get a transporting company involved. We then had to register with NAIT (New Zealand's National Animal Identification and Tracing) which was a completely new process for us in the hospitality business and then look for slaughter options. We soon realised home kill was unfortunately not an option so had to find an abattoir that was relatively local (to avoid undue stress on the animal while being transported) and one willing to take a single beast. In the end, we partnered with one of our suppliers, Harmony Meats who assisted us in getting the steer transported and slaughtered and returned to their butchery to be hung for two weeks. I then took my entire kitchen crew into Harmony Meats and did a butchery session which was a real eye opener in terms of the skill required to navigate the animal and produce all the different cuts of meats.
Which beef cuts did you use for the five-year celebration dinner?
The beef was used as the main course for our five-year celebration dinner. I created a dish to demonstrate the different cuts of beef and different cooking techniques paying homage to my four consecutive Beef + Lamb New Zealand accolades. The dish which evolved was ‘Beef Three Ways’ - smoked eye fillet of beef, braised beef ravioli and sous-vide ballotine with mushroom arancini, garden carrot, orange and vanilla bean emulsion, beetroot chutney and poached tamarillo.
The remainder of the beef continues to be used on our regular menu, in our specials and on our meat lover’s pizza. The reality is that from a whole beast, there is a lot of meat and we need to be changing our menu to adapt to the different cuts we are using. There is only so much eye fillet (which tend to be popular on restaurant menus) so we need to be introducing less popular or lesser known cuts and adapting our cooking methods accordingly.
Where to next?
Our vegetable gardens are flourishing; we have started doing workshops and are really wanting to develop educating people about sustainability and growing and eating seasonally. We already have chickens and more livestock may be an option. Pigs are on the radar (we are thinking home-made prosciutto and cured meats) and maybe lamb could be our next learning journey. Watch this space!
A rainy September day did not deter the gardening enthusiasts attending our inaugural Gardening Workshop - "Get Ready for Spring". Welcoming our guests with a roaring fire in the Barn, we enjoyed morning tea ( a delicious home-made slice courtesy of our kitchen!) and spent the first part of the session listening to Agrissentials founder, John Morris talk about soil health and nutrition. Explaining the importance of maintaining healthy soil, we looked at what we need to do to achieve this (their Rokdust product is a great start!). With gumboots and umbrellas at the ready, we then braved the elements for an interactive session in the garden with Vital Harvest owner, Nicki Murray-Orr, looking at what we do here in the vege gardens at The Falls Retreat. This interesting and informative session was then topped off with a delicious shared lunch in the Bistro barn, with guests enjoying a selection of our gourmet wood fired pizzas and nutritious salads, using produce out of the kitchen garden. Thanks to Agrissentials, we had 5 bags of Rokdust to giveaway and everyone went home loaded with information on getting their garden started and a strawberry plant as a gift from us.
CHECK OUT DETAILS OF OUR NEXT UPCOMING WORKSHOP: "Growing Healthy Veges"
It's hard to believe but it's been 5 years since the Bistro opened its doors to the public. We started with a few covers and a wood fired oven and can now cater for weddings, parties and of course a romantic dinner for two. We have lots to celebrate - a series of accolades and awards, a flourishing kitchen vege garden, our cosy accommodation and kids playground - all in all creating a unique experience for our guests.
We could not let this opportunity pass without having a celebration! It’s on Weds 28th September from 6.30pm and guests will be treated to a special 3 course menu specially created to celebrate our achievements over the past 5 years ( mainly that we have survived and we are still smiling!).
Everyone will be greeted with a welcome rink on arrival and seated in our lovely rustic barn with the fire roaring. For entrée it will be the duck dish that earned Aaron his "Apprentice of the Year Award" and beef will be for main course - using meat from the steer we were grazing which focuses on our paddock to plate ethos and Brad's NZ Beef & Lamb accolades from the past 5 years. And of course one of one of Brad’s amazing sweet treats for dessert.
We have even talked the chefs into coming out of the kitchen to talk about their dishes and we think Brad might even share a few insights into his experiences over the past 5 years. A night not to be missed!