Meet the Chef: Johnny Taggart, Kisa

As a new Middle Eastern-inspired restaurant, Kisa has roots predominantly in Turkish cuisine. The Wellington restaurant initially launched as a pop-up in March 2021 at LTD. Event Space.

Kisa is owned by Dean White and sits under a new hospitality group banner, Dining Room Group. Executive Chef of Dining Room Group and Head Chef at LTD., Johnny Taggart, designed the menu and led the original pop-up restaurant, with Head Chef Chris Morgan joining to lead the team.  

The food and restaurant are centred around a huge Josper Mangal (Charcoal BBQ) - the only one in New Zealand! - as well as a custom gas-fired pita bread oven. Serving a variety of mezze and large plates, with lots of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options, the restaurant showcases New Zealand produce and suppliers through a Middle-Eastern lens.

Chef Taggart has not been bound to a certain style or cuisine in his experiences, allowing himself instead to draw inspiration from various cuisines that he personally has enjoyed eating. Taggart has been massively inspired by the travelling nature of Anthony Bourdain and challenges himself to find an understanding of the cultures he explores through the medium of food.

The Head Chef role at LTD. has allowed Taggart to broaden his horizons and given him an outlet for creativity. Taggart runs a single team at the ever-changing pop-up venue.

“It’s been a blast pushing myself - to always be thinking of the next project we want to pursue in a supportive hospitality environment.”

He has specifically dealt with Middle Eastern cuisine, hoping to capture the energy and essence of what eating there is all about at Kisa.

Taggart’s favourite part of working in hospitality is the feeling of providing literal sustenance.

“The literal French origins of the word restaurant come from the roots of restaurer - to restore or refresh. Being an integral part of somebody’s day in that regard definitely makes the more difficult days easier to swallow.”

His advice to those looking to enter the industry would be to stick to your goals. 

“You ultimately create your own outcomes in this industry. As a culinary school dropout myself, I’ve refused to let it become an obstacle in my path to finding success in hospitality.” 

Taggart has sensed a changing of the guard in the culinary industry, allowing a more positive, nurturing environment to develop around New Zealand’s next generation of chefs. 

“I aspire to keep learning how to manage people more effectively. I’m ultimately trying to not repeat the cycle of anger and abuse that was rampant through the industry when I first started cooking.”

The chef is shaping his standing in the industry as the Covid-19 pandemic and war in Ukraine affects the global supply chain. Over the next few years, he sees the industry’s biggest challenge is the ever-tightening margins and reduced staffing levels. 

“The over-reliance on a global market for supply is a challenge. With Russia and Ukraine supplying about 30 percent of the world’s wheat and barley, the impacts are far-reaching.”

He has found success in utilising smaller-scale producers locally and nationally - such as Better Fishing, Leafy Ridge Olive Oils, and Premium Game. Taggart stands behind supporting businesses that rely on the hospitality sector while maintaining an ethos of morality and sustainability in their crafts.

Kisa is located at 195 Cuba Street, serving lunch and dinner. 

Visit to learn more and make a booking.