Originally from Hong Kong, Claire Ellis previously worked in Licensing for global brands, including Peppa Pig, in the broadcasting and toys industry. When she moved to New Zealand, Ellis started Alchemy in June 2020, just after New Zealand’s first lockdown. Alchemy’s opening marked Ellis’s first hospitality experience, aside from her time working in bars and restaurants during university.
Alchemy’s food philosophy and style revolve around a European-inspired menu made fresh in-house. The restaurant also incorporates a laid-back Kiwi approach shaped around seasonally sourcing local produce.
Ellis said her favourite part of working in hospitality is improving her culinary skills and meeting people. She loves meeting and getting to know the customers, especially her regulars, with whom she has now formed great friendships with.
Before working in hospitality, Ellis did not realise that being a restaurant owner was more difficult than it looked. Chefs are required to be able to do every job in the restaurant, from cooking to plumbing. Her top tip for people looking to open a restaurant is to make sure to gain experience as a chef.
When she is not working, Ellis likes to spend time with her three young boys at home. In winter, she tries to go skiing as much as she can. In summer, she spends time on the lake, hosting picnics and braais with friends. Her top staple items in the home fridge are lemons, coriander and eggs.
Rising ingredient costs, increased wages, council rates and rents are the challenges that will continue to face the hospitality industry in the future, noted Ellis. Staffing shortages also make it difficult for the industry to operate at full capacity.
However, Ellis hopes the hospitality industry can return to pre-Covid operating levels in the future. Her goal is for Alchemy to be known in Wanaka as the place to go for the best cocktails and dinner in town.