The Cuisine at Whare Kea
There's an alchemist in the kitchen
Whare Kea is renowned for its outstanding cuisine thanks to award-winning chef James Stapley. UK-born James trained in top London kitchens at the Hilton and Selfridges. He moved to New Zealand with his Kiwi wife, Belinda, and first came to notice at Pegasus Bay Winery where, as head chef, his expertise saw the restaurant win the best casual dining category of the 2005 Cuisine Restaurant of the Year Awards.
After working at renowned restaurant Saggio di Vino in Christchurch, where he excelled in producing simple yet delicious fare using only the best local and seasonal ingredients, he became the mastermind behind the sumptuous yet subtle cuisine at Whare Kea. His food is simply presented – deceptively so, for the preparation is anything but. He likes a clean style, cleverly preparing dishes that showcase the finest ingredients. “That way you treat the ingredients well,” he says.
James frequents the local markets and artisan producers, personally selecting his produce. “I’m into the artisan style,” he says. “I use only New Zealand cheeses and you can find really good ones. The olive oil and saffron are local. I just love that concept – when I’m driving to work and the smell and the tastes are in my head. I can find pretty much everything from the local boutique growers and producers. I love creating dishes guests probably wouldn’t necessarily cook themselves. It’s about getting the balance right.”
Chef James is ably assisted by his sous-chef Jethro Vincent and together they create the five course degustation served each evening.
James describes his role as a dream job. “I know when the guests are coming. I can interact with them to find out what they like, what they want. You invest a lot more thought because you get to know them.
Local wines are the toast of Wanaka, and make a great complement to James’s fine cuisine. Central Otago enjoys a richly deserved reputation for its varietal wines. Pinot Noir in particular has become a hallmark wine of the region.
Whare Kea offers cooking classes focused on getting the best out of seasonal ingredients and preparing restaurant-quality dishes at home.
The hour-long classes are complimentary for guests who stay for three or more nights. More in-depth classes of two and a half hours cost NZ$225. Classes can be tailored to guests’ requests.