Inspire me: Giulio Sturla | Roots Restaurant

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giulio-sturla{Photo credit | CHARLOTTE CLEMENTS}

Moving home to NZ I really wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of the food scene. It’s been 10 years since I left the kitchen and after 5 years spent living in Australia I have to admit, I felt really out of touch with whats been happening at home. Now that we’re back and I’ve had a chance to re-connect, eat some amazing food and spend time with some incredibly talented people I feel like right now, we are in extremely exciting times here in little ol’ New Zealand. The number of truly passionate chefs, producers and farmers has blown my mind and I’ve eaten at more than a few restaurants lately which have even had me wanting to get my chef whites back on again, and that’s not something I ever thought I’d say!

Many of us have known for a long time just how truly blessed we are in this little country, with our access to some of the worlds best kaimoana (seafood), high quality meats, dairy, fruits and vegetables, but I and many others feel like for too long we’ve kinda just taken it for granted and haven’t necessarily celebrated it in the way that it deserves. Right now as I type, there’s a bunch of super talented people who have joined forces in a bid to ‘inspire and empower New Zealand people by creating a strong sense of pride and respect for our natural resources’. ConversatioNZ  was started by Giulio Sturla, the humble, super talented and incredibly passionate chef behind Roots Restaurant, named best restaurant in NZ last year (which I was lucky enough to dine at on my last trip to Christchurch!). They’re running a crowdfunding campaign to help get things off the ground and only have 7 days left to go and they’re nealry at their goal! I thought it would be nice to hear a little more about one of the main driving forces behind the movement, so Giulio has kindly answered a few questions below. If you’d like to make a pledge to their campaign click here and if you ever have the chance to eat at Roots, do it. I’ve never had a food experience quite like it.

 

Kiaora Giulio, can you tell us a little about your background? Where you are from, what made you want to become a chef and what brought you to NZ?

I was born in Valparaiso, Chile and grew up in Ecuador for 20 years and then I started travelling…  One of the reasons I became a Chef is because I really love eating and I learned at a very young age that when you use the best produce and cook it yourself it is going to be delicious. I started to cook probably when I was 7-8, making breakfast for my family and baking cakes all the time, most of the money I made was to get something to eat, always eating.

I wanted to come to New Zealand with (my wife) Christy because we could have the opportunity to live and work under a working holiday visa. We wanted to learn a different culture and life style, enjoy nature and to travel more.

Local, sustainable, ethical and seasonal are not just catch phrases for you are they? What does this mean to you and how do you and your team include these principles in your ever-changing menus?

Sometimes those words are just that, words. I feel that those words have a meaning that goes further because there is a reason for everything we do, and those words converted into actions have a bigger meaning. They can also become an example for other people, ideas for a better future. For me the words: local, sustainable, ethical, and seasonal are not just words, but the right thing to do. With our food it is nothing different or less, we care for what we cook and why we cook it and for us at Roots, every single ingredient has a meaning, it has a story to tell. we make the story even better when we create something new and serve it to our guests.

1{Fungi, pine nuts, NZ spinach, truffle. Photo credit | NAOMI HAUSSMAN}

What is NZ food to you?

New Zealand food is the product, the raw material, the wild edible nature and all the people who make food with enough respect to nature because we have learnt how to gather, to hunt, to cook, and also to create and evolve with the times to continue making delicious food.

What inspired you to start ConversatioNZ?

The hope to create something that will make a better place to live and a better place to eat. I am ignorant in many things, but I love learning. With ConversatioNZ I wanted to create an environment where same minded people can share ideas, create dialogue and to inspire.

img_6272{Strawberry, wild berries, almond sorbet. Photo credit | CHARLOTTE CLEMENTS}

How will the money be used if the crowdfunding goal is reached?

With this money ConversatioNZ will be able to become a project that will sustain itself economically. It will create a salary for a Manager-Coordinator for the movement, following the Manifesto to achieve “Making New Zealand’s Food Famous” as a goal.

What are your three favourite local NZ ingredients?

Paua, feijoas, heritage tomatoes (only when they are in season, grown and harvested with love).

Roots was named best restaurant in 2015, how did this change things for you and your little team?

Well for me I am busier now, it opened the door to many opportunities. I have so many ideas and I am involved in a few other projects.The team is not little anymore, we were 5 people before the award now we are 10. We extended the restaurant to fit 10 more people (max 35) and we now have a bar and lounge area. We are always creating more spaces for Roots, now thinking in a test kitchen…

Last words…

There is always an opportunity in life to do something better, to give the best of ourselves to others. That is a very special thing that emotionally makes you feel good and happy. What about if all of us can do that?

Thanks so much Giulio and all the best for the campaign! xx Emm

(Please note, this is not a sponsored post. I’m truly inspired by Giulio’s work and I’m keen to help out a movement that’s close to my heart).

mcp20150506-487-2{Pumpkin gnocchi, saffron, cheese. Photo credit | MEREDITH DYER}

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3 Comments

  • Reply
    The Wooden Spoon
    September 9, 2016 at 1:43 pm

    Stunning photos!

  • Reply
    Nicky Walker
    September 12, 2016 at 8:01 am

    Hi Emma, this is great inspiration. Is there a network/website/something of the chefs and restaurants that are involved in the Conversationz? I am coming traveling these school holidays between Taupo and Auckland and out to both coasts and wonder if there are some hidden gems to find?

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