Chris Moore is something of an accidental chef, after getting involved with the kitchen of his boarding hostel while at high school and never looking back. “I started out washing dishes and everything I know today is because of hard work and experience as well as building relationships with other chefs,” he told Restaurant and Café. Since then Moore has worked around Dunedin at The Esplanade, Pier 24, Prohibition Smokehouse and currently at Vault 21.

Moore described his kitchen as addictive: “It's hot, fast paced and generally very intense. But with a great team like ours it’s also a good time with a lot of laughs and support,” he said. Over the years his dishes have changed from “heavy portions with dairy and fats” to more refined, petite portions with cleaner, healthier components.

Vault 21 is also embracing another food group that may not prove quite as popular – bugs. “We have had locust casually on our menu for seven months now and held a bug inspired degustation menu,” Moore explained. However, for those less inclined to eat creepy crawlies, Moore is also getting with the latest sous vide trend, although adding his own twist combining it with smoking techniques because, as he says, “with the combination of the two well done you can’t go wrong!”

Moore is also making sure his menu fits around the latest dining trends, most notably a shift from individual meals to sharing plates. “We’ve noticed a lot less people are going out for a traditional sit-down three course meal, and more for a series of different plates that they can share and talk about with their friends.”

For all the changes and trends, though, Moore always has one dish upon which he can always rely – palm sugar cured venison with mushroom and truffle. “This dish has been an award winner and crowd favourite from day one,” he said. “It’s so easy to change the cure and condiments with the seasons and style of cuisine. It will always be my go to.”

At the moment Moore is working within Asian cuisine, a venture sparked by his time at Pier 24 and their salmon congee. He enjoyed it so much that it followed him to his current kitchen. “It’s simplicity and balance of flavours best sums up what we try to achieve here at Vault21,” he said. Because he’s new to the cuisine, he is constantly finding new ingredients and flavour combinations to keep him inspired and excited about what he’s doing.

Moore is currently working towards the Southern Chef of the Year title, to be held in Timaru on May 20th, as well as developing a new menu for Vault21 along with Executive Chef Greg Piner. He is also looking to win at the Silver Fern Farm Awards, coming off a ‘Best Venison’ award for Vault 21 in 2016.