FOURty Seconds with Des Harris

13 May 2015
2 min read
Des Harris from Clooney’s in New Zealand tells us about his granddad’s famous rhubarb wine, his savoury quest and his most embarrassing kitchen moment (it involves chalk and accidental eating!)

What are your earliest memories of being interested in food?

My grandparents influenced me the most. We spent plenty of time together in the school holidays and heaps of family time together around the dinner table.Gran was an awesome cook and I’dhelp her with whatever she was up to in the kitchen.Granddad worked at the milk treatment, in charge of the production of yogurt and ice cream.The processes used to intrigue me.Granddad had a glass house, large vegetable gardens, various plum trees, but he was most famous around the family andneighbourhood for his rhubarb wine made in the garage (very strong and fizzy).

What kind of experience do you aim to give guests at Clooney?

My role is to provide the customer with a meal, to provide sustenance. I don’t create food to impress other chefs.Yes the food must be innovative, but primarily I want the customer to eat it.So I am not going to manipulate the produce or challenge the customer too much by showing mountains of technique.In saying that, the food must have its own identity anda reasoning for being.It doesn’t always have to be conceptual though.

What would you say has inspired your cooking the most?

I am on a quest for savoury flavours. What turns me on is creating food with full flavour and length of palette, dishes that tick the rich and yummy box.Clooney’s interior is rich and strong andthat’s really set the boundaries for my cuisine. As a chef it’s really important to be adaptable andtailor your style to fit with the restaurants dynamics in order to help make the package make sense.

Describe how you see your own culinary style and how it has evolved over the years…

My style has become more refined and focused but more importantly more relaxed and fresher.This is something I think that comes with age and experience.I’m firmly in control of my palette of flavours and technique, I know what I want to achieve with in each course and how that fits with in Clooney’s picture.

What would you say has been the most memorable moment in your culinary career so far?

Winning ‘Chef of the Year’ in the Good Food Guide 2013, andgaining Clooney 3 chef hats rating.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self, starting out a career in the world of food?

Times really have changed.20-odd years ago when I started in the industry, chefs were very secretive and possessive about their food, and stagesweren’t really done as we do now to gain new knowledge and experiences.I realise now that I should have moved around jobs a lot more than I did, fast tracking my progress a little bit, and not being so much of that loyal dog that I am.

What’s been your most embarrassing kitchen moment?

In my early days it involved a hunk of chalk which somehow ended up in a bowl of a customer’s chicken pasta. Yep – andthey gave it a good chew!

What restaurant is currently at the top of your list to dine at?

I’m keen to pop over to Sydney to dine at ‘s Momo fuku.