Interview: Hayden McMillan

Hayden McMullan, local Peroni Ambasciatori, runs the kitchen at TriBeCa Restaurant, one of Auckland’s leading fine dining establishments. He chats to get Frank about his approach to cooking. He recently created a 5-course degustation menu designed to compliment Peroni. You can check out one of his delicious recipes here.

Tell me about Hayden McMillan and your approach to cooking – what do you focus on?

I'm 27 years old and I'm the head chef of Tribeca restaurant in Parnell. I've been cooking for eight years and have worked in the best restaurants NZ has to offer, including Vinnies, French Cafe, Huka Lodge and Merediths with Tribeca being my first head chef post! I cook seasonal, innovative, and modern New Zealand Pacific food.

My approach to cooking is firstly inspired by what's in season, gathering the best of those ingredients and showcasing them in a way which represents a New Zealand style: not French, not Italian but trying to develop a New Zealand flavour, using innovative methods to bring an element of x factor to the dishes and also an element of fun, putting a smile on the diners faces.

What appealed about developing a relationship with Peroni?

Peroni to me represents something classy something sophisticated which I think aligns with my food perfectly.

What was your idea behind the menu for the Amici di Peroni lunch?

My ideas behind the lunch were a mixture of summer, luxury and sophistication. I wanted the menu to be light to compliment the Peroni but also the menu had to be sharp and quick and not linger too long, as it was a summer style long lunch. Oysters to start with peroni shandys, watermelon gazpacho, cured salmon, scampi - all those things say summer and sophistication to me which I think is what Peroni is about.

Is it hard to match a degustation menu with beer – when it is a traditional wine combination?

A little harder. It is more about matching the overall dining experience with the Peroni as opposed to individual courses as would be the case with a wine match. I found adding elements of spice to some dishes complimented the beer perfectly and again by making the dishes light to easily flow with the beer.
Many of your dishes are quite innovative – use of NO2 etc – how does that match with the traditional values and characteristics of Peroni?

One of my favourite things to do as a chef is to take something so rooted in tradition and history and put a modern twist on it and to totally play around with it. When you can do this in an innovative and sophisticated way it can breath a new life into it and put it in a modern and classy light, so doing the Peroni n2 refreshers that no one would have ever seen or tasted before adds another classy, luxurious dimension to the brand that is Peroni.

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