“At 13 years of age in Italy, you must decide what kind of high school you want to go to, so I decided to go to culinary school, and I’ve been on this path ever since,” said Giada Grilli.
Currently working as a junior sous chef at The Sugar Club, Grilli has cooking running through her blood. Growing up surrounded by her parents, grandmother, and aunties cooking, Grilli said that the desire to learn more about food and how to make it delicious just grew and grew. At 16, Grilli took a job as a chef in her hometown, near Bologna, Italy, as well as working on the coast during the summer season.
“After a few years in the area, I decided to move to Australia to push myself and learn a bit more about the world has to offer,” said Grilli. After two years in Australia, Grilli relocated to New Zealand in 2014.
“I’ve had the pleasure of working in some of the best fine dining restaurants in Auckland—The Grove, Sidart, and Merediths. These experiences have taught me a lot about New Zealand, its produce, and its identity in the culinary world.”
Grilli said that her dishes aim to highlight the natural flavour of produce while enhancing it with complementary ingredients. Additionally, Grilli noted that there is a range of techniques that she likes to use to bring out unique characteristics in various dishes.
“I love charcoal, the smokiness and the different flavours you can get from the variety of wood is fantastic. I also like dry-ageing and fermenting a lot—the evolution of flavour only time can give is possibly the finest cooking art.”
The Sugar Club has recently been involved in the procurement of a vegan menu for World Vegan Day. “There is a growing awareness about the effect our diets have on the planet: animal farming, intensive agriculture and fishing. In a fine dining environment such as The Sugar Club, we have a unique opportunity to prove that vegan is not only soy, tofu and salad, but can be something incredibly delicious and packed with flavour.”
Grilli also said that the environmental challenge related to hospitality, and more broadly, food, has to be the primary concern in the industry.
“In our position, we have the power to make a difference in how people eat and see food.”
Grilli recently competed in the San Pellegrino Young Chef Competition. During the cook-off, contestants were given five hours to prepare their dish, and present it to a panel of expert judges hailing from across elite culinary enterprises.
“It was an absolute honour to participate in the semi-finals of the San Pellegrino Young Chef Competition, amongst many great chefs and hospitality professionals. The cook-off was very exciting, and I had a lot of fun. I was very proud of the dish that I presented. I was also extremely lucky to have Michael Meredith as a mentor; his support was extremely valuable throughout the experience,” she said.
One of the growing trends in the industry at the moment that Grilli highlighted is the importance of locality. She said that sourcing local ingredients, and using what nature offers us, is imperative. Grilli said foraging, growing and making as much as possible in-house is the trademark of a forward-thinking and competent kitchen—a cuisine that brings one back to the origin of food.
Throughout the years, Grilli said her cooking has developed through the experiences she has had around the world. At The Sugar Club, she hopes to be able to continue to learn and grow these skills. Eventually, however, she said she would love to be able to open her own little restaurant that would showcase the beauty of simplicity.