Home' The Wellingtonian : August 18th 2011 Contents 12 THE WELLINGTONIAN, AUGUST 18, 2011
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of our city
Rex Morgan cooks up a feast
Rex Morgan: ''Back then there were no Jamie Olivers or Gordon Ramsays.''
Photo: REBECCA THOMSON
talks to Boulcott Street
Bistro head chef Rex
being on MasterChef
and living in
What is your earliest food
I ve loved food since I was five.
I grew up near Rotorua. When I
was young we spent a lot of time
on the marae and there was
always heaps of food there. Also
Mum was a good cook. She cooked
basic food, but good food.
Did you always want to be a
I wanted to be either a police-
man or a chef. I m not sure why I
chose to be chef. Perhaps it was
the white coat.
Where did you train?
At Waikato Polytech, 26 years
ago. My first job was with Steve
Morris at Hamilton s Grosvenor
Motor Inn. He s now the chef at
the stadium. He was my mentor
and the only person I ve ever had
to pull out a CV for.
When did you come to Wel-
In about 1999 I came here to
work with Peter Thornley at Te
Papa s Icon restaurant. I d worked
with him in London. Wellington is
a great place and the people here
are really good. The chefs here, we
all get on. If anyone is short a
kitchen-hand or if you re running
out of steak, you just ring around.
How have things changed
since you started?
Back then there were no Jamie
Olivers or Gordon Ramsays. And
food has changed in the past 15
years. When I was working in
Switzerland we would get better
New Zealand produce than you
would get here. New Zealand sent
all its top-grade produce overseas.
When did you travel to
In the early 1990s. It was mind-
boggling -- the language barrier,
working with top chefs. It was a
big learning curve. They were
using ingredients like truffles and
wild mushrooms, things we didn t
get here. Also you re in Europe, so
you can have pizza in Italy and it s
the real deal.
You ran Citron in Willis St
for a while, didn't you?
Yes. My wife, Wendy, and I ran
Citron. She was front-of-house.
We decided to do a degustation
menu and people started ringing
up saying, Oh, I can t eat nine
main courses . It was such a new
idea then. Of course it wasn t nine
mains. We started with something
cold and gradually built to des-
sert. We did a seven-dish version,
Why move to the Boulcott
I had mentally outgrown Cit-
ron. I knew the guys running
Boulcott Street Bistro and when
they offered me a partnership, I
jumped at it. The place is well-
established -- it s 20 years this
year -- and it s great to be a part of
Do chefs really yell in the
People see chefs like Gordon
[Ramsay] and say to me, Are you
like that? In the heat of the
moment you might yell, but it s
not abuse and it s not something
you would want to do often.
There s none of that old-school
yelling these days. If you have to
raise your voice that way, you re
not doing your job properly. My
chefs know that if I go very, very
quiet then something s really
Do you cook at home?
No, my wife cooks at home and
if we go out, we enjoy Italian or
Thai. I love going out for casual
food. Some of the best meals are
crayfish, oysters or whitebait on
the beach. They are reassuringly
comfort food. I also enjoy
secondary cuts, like lamb shanks,
braised shin or ox cheeks.
Are there particular ethnic
food flavours you enjoy?
When I was in Hong Kong I fell
in love with Vietnamese and
Taiwanese food. We re very lucky
in Wellington -- we ve got every-
What do you do for time out?
I ve got a great dane, so I take
her for walks. And I love sitting at
home reading a book. When you
do take a day off, it s great to just
spend it at home.
Do you read books by other
I ve got quite a serious collec-
tion of cookbooks. I don t necess-
arily read them from cover to
cover, and I tend to read more
about people now than about
methods. Sometimes I get ideas
from books. You don t like to copy
the idea, but it can be the basis for
What about food shows -- do
you watch them?
Not really. There is so much
food on television, it s hard to keep
up. The whole spectrum of shows
But you've been a judge on
MasterChef. What was that
I was in an episode with Peter
Gordon. It was an interesting pro-
cess. I would never have thought
to do half the things those guys
[the contestants] did.
You also run cooking classes
for the Rural Women's Net-
work. What's that like?
They have the most beautiful
kitchens! They can cook, too, and
they have good produce. It s a
good public relations exercise for
me, but those classes are a lot of
fun. I enjoy teaching.
You're also a consultant to
Air New Zealand. So, has air-
line food improved?
Well the meals I do are for busi-
ness class. I can t speak for cattle
class. There are a lot of health
regulations. We try to keep as
simple and as fresh as possible.
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