Freddie Ponder is originally from the UK but calls New Zealand home now. As head chef of Table Restaurant in the Taranaki, Ponder runs a “fast, fun, and passionate” operation. Before Table, Ponder had worked at Salt, in New Plymouth for four years. Ponder also gained a wealth of knowledge overseas, working under names like Jamie Raftery and Michael Caines. Moving around the world has influenced Ponder’s cooking, and he continues to push the limits, always looking to learn new techniques and ways of presenting dishes.
Ponder recalls his grandmothers cooking, and how her dishes of cottage pie and roast duck for Christmas acted as an inspiration to him. Recently, Ponder has been experimenting with locally sourced Kiwi products. “Lots of restaurants and we are using Maori/Native New Zealand ingredients like piko pikos (fern shoots), kawa kawa (medicinal herb), and kina (New Zealand sea urchin). It’s amazing, and learning about all of this makes it even better.” Although Ponder doesn’t have a favourite ingredient, he currently loves cooking on stones and hopes to learn more about the techniques involved. Furthermore, Ponder said, “I really want to try new ways to cook and present ingredients like beef and lamb to get the best flavour out of it. The prospects are exciting.”
To stay educated regarding new trends, Ponder likes to eat out as well as making collaboration dinners. Part of the reason he became a chef, Ponder said, is “[He] fell in love with cooking, the family of the team, and the rush of the service.” Ponder works alongside his twin brother, Richard, and Freddie regards him as an amazing chef and “one of the superstars of the kitchen.”
One of the dishes that Ponder is particularly fond of is Pumpkin and Mussel porridge. He said that it follows his menus wherever he goes. Freddie said that his most significant accomplishment was, “becoming a father and husband, and being asked to be a Beef + Lamb ambassador again—so stoked.” Ponder’s dish for the Beef + Lamb Ambassadors award was a smoked eye fillet with BBQ short rib, beetroot three ways, goats cheese and basil jelly. Although having to switch his style from his original French/English cooking style, Ponder has been inspired by Kiwi style and hopes to continue to be able to create and cook with new ingredients and new methods.
As Ponder looks towards the future, he hopes to be able to set up some pop-up restaurants around the country with his wife. The quality of Ponder’s food, he said, is present because he, “listens and experiences the experience he offers.” He is also on the edge of some exciting projects that he can’t yet reveal. “Every day [in the kitchen] is different—it’s exciting.”