Meet the Chef: Greg Piner, No7 Balmac

Greg Piner used to watch chefs at work at the local Rūnanga pub, while helping to make ice cream sundaes as an eight year old. He later enrolled in the local chef course after being complimented on his ability to cook aboard his parents fishing boats.

“I would cook for the crew - and anyone who has cooked on a boat will know, you don’t have many ingredients and the oven isn’t steady when the sea is rough.”

He then moved to Queenstown, involved in the opening of Millennium Hotel and other roles before stepping up into sous chef, head chef and executive chef positions. Piner has worked under the likes of Warrick Brown and Michael Coughlin.

Eventually, his various cheffing roles led him to Head Chef at No7 Balmac, Dunedin, where Piner continues a partnership with Silver Fern Farms in food development and events.

“I have the utmost respect for farmers and the grass-fed goodness.”

Piner loves the sweet, sour and salty tastes of Asian foods. 

“The tastes make you mouth dance with joy.”

He gained inspiration from trips to China and worked in one of the busiest restaurants in Beijing. 

He is also partial to a good BBQ, and studied different styles when helping to open Prohibition Smokehouse in Dunedin. This included making use of different woods and how they impacted flavours in the food. 

His style at No7 is completely different, with Spanish/Mediterranean flavours, though they are lucky to have a Texas style wood grill. Piner uses apple wood on this, giving a wonderful fruity BBQ flavour to anything grilled upon it.

At No7, Piner uses seasonal ingredients, and is always talking to their gardener about what is being planted and what is coming next. But, No7’s kitchen is not the only one making use of the garden - the bar also comes up with cocktails using fresh ingredients growing in the backyard. 

His favourite part of working in hospitality is the people he meets.

“They’re like your family as you spend so much time working alongside them.” 

Future challenges for the hospitality industry however, are the staffing shortages facing New Zealand due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“The staff are the most important thing in any business, I believe. It’s hard at the moment to find people.” 

Piner’s advice to anyone looking for a start in their hospitality career is to be passionate, learn from the bad days and move forward.

“Hospitality is a long game, you get what you put into it. One thing I’ve learned from my years in the kitchen is never be worried about putting your hand up and asking for help.”

Covid-19 restrictions were hard on No7, with the opening and closing of the business urging the team to come up with different ways to stay busy. The restaurant stayed operational with contactless pickups and found their homegrown garden useful when product shortages and price increases hit. 

Piner has worked on many projects during his career so far and is proud of his product development work at Silver Fern Farms. With his BBQ experience, he has also been involved in the development of outdoor BBQ/fires for Escea fireplaces and is now working as an ambassador for the company. In both of these projects, Piner got to work with passionate people, and travel both New Zealand and overseas.

His personal future goals include continuing to support his amazing team and pushing to maintain the best dining experience for No7 Balmac guests.