A Michelin take on mince

22 Jul 2021

When Michael Rowland-Jones (12707) talks about big flavours and approachable food, he’s talking mince on toast! But not as we know it.

The London-trained executive chef for the restaurant trio of Aikmans, Mr Brightside Rooftop Bar and Café Valentino gives the lunch dish a whole new take with pickled red chillis, parmesan cheese and chive sour cream artistically served on sourdough toast. It’s indicative of the modern European/New Zealand-style food he loves, employing fresh, seasonal ingredients in exciting new ways.

His chicken, leek and tarragon pie with creamy mash and red wine jus – another dish big on flavour and big on butter – and his pork belly with Brussels sprouts, celeriac and apple, is flying out the door at Aikmans.

The Old Boy has been executive chef there since September and very glad to have “a beautiful work/life balance” after years of 90-plus hours a week in London.

Working his way up the ranks in restaurants including Michelin star premises, he proved to himself that he could cook, and more than that, that his professionalism in every aspect of hospitality matched his chef credentials.

The passion began as a law student in Dunedin when preparing meals for flatmates proved more enjoyable than studying, so he threw in the books and got a job in a pizza restaurant.

“I loved school. College provided the standard for me, and it gave me the confidence to break the mould when I found my passion for cooking. It gave me the confidence to put myself forward and have a go.

“Success breeds success. And everything I learnt about appropriate behaviour, being a gentleman, professionalism, was instilled at College. Those things are very important in hospitality, and I’m still constantly learning and training on the job, while trying to get the level up for everyone around me.”

Michael has a new task right now – planning his wedding. He will cook for it two days in advance, with every attention to detail.

“I’m a bit of a control freak and a stickler for details. It’s been an exciting and challenging process, but we are almost there. The ceremony and reception will be at home with 70 close friends and family. Homely food with plenty of Champagne and canapes.”