GIULIO STURLA, Owner, Chef at Roots Restaurant

Owner and chef at Roots Restaurant in Lyttleton Giulio Sturla has had much more than food on his mind of late. His most recent project has been ConversatioNZ - a movement initiated by chefs and people in the food industry with the aim of highlighting the quality and vast array of edible resources available in New Zealand. His dream, along with the ConversatioNZ’s team is to inspire and empower New Zealand people by creating a strong sense of pride and respect for the country’s natural resources and putting New Zealand food on the world map.

It involves harnessing both traditional and innovative forms of knowledge drawn from the entire community of people who gather, grow, raise, prepare and work with the gifts of the land and the sea. ConversatioNZ seeks to provide a forum to encourage and enable collaboration between all levels of the culinary chain and move towards more sustainable food systems.

“For me, the most important thing has been to make ConversatioNZ a financially sustainable platform for the movement, with a PledgeMe campaign working towards ‘Making New Zealand Food Famous”. With this successful campaign it will be the beginning of many many projects,” said Sturla.

Aside from working on the project, he has recently travelled to Sydney, Borago in Santiago, Chile and Amisfield in Queenstown. “All of my travel experiences from different cultures and traditions has helped me to understand how important it is to respect and learn about where our food comes from and to create our identity at Roots.”

Working in Sturla’s kitchen could be best described as creative, progression, passion, respect, love and nature. “I like to show more than talk to too much when it comes to the quality coming out of the kitchen. If we cook with love, from the heart, in a happy environment that means quality for me, It is how I feel about cooking, this is not a job, it’s a lifestyle.”

When it comes to the menu, the kitchen staff has grown at Roots, and this has meant that the team has adapted together to put their input into creating new and improved dishes as Sturla believes that with freedom there are no limits and this allows for creativity to flow through.

One dish that is a highlight for Sturla is his black foot paua, cauliflower puree, bacon stock with garlic chips. But there are many beautifully constructed and developed dishes on the menu at Roots.

“I don’t like to use the word trends when it comes to cooking, but I read a lot and stay connected with people that care about what they do on the same level as I do. I also try to find the best products I can to keep training my palate.”

As a young chef, Sturla recalls the best dish he ever had in Caleta Horcon, Chile. “A stand out dish would have to have been the first time that I got to eat picorocos (barnacles). It was the first time that I had tasted something so amazingly delicious that I still have that flavour in my memory years later. It was the best barnacles soup ever!”

It isn’t just barnacles that are a favourite ingredient but also that of porcini and black garlic that he likes to incorporate into his menu.

“I love eating, and I try to surround myself with good food as much as I can.”

On looking back at his career to date, Sturla has worked at myriad places including on celebrity cruises, Hilton Hotels Group, Mugaritz, and Schwass Restaurant but his biggest accomplishment to date has most certainly been opening Roots Restaurant in Lyttleton. Going forward, Sturla takes each day as it comes and believes that the future is today and we must enjoy today.