Meet the Chef: Mario Rodrigues, Bistro Gentil

“I have been very lucky to have had a solid team for around four years. The environment that we created was so good and productive. I just want it to stay like that for everyone, and then all the rest will be easy,” said chef Mario Rodrigues at Bistro Gentil.

Rodrigues’ food style is rustic French but with a Kiwi twist, sourcing inspiration for new menu ideas from New Zealand’s seasonal produce. Rodrigues’ favourite part of working in hospitality is seeing people enjoy the dishes he has cooked. He finds great joy in seeing regular faces and new faces that leave with a smile.

Facing Lake Wanaka and the Southern Alps, Bistro Gentil is a fine-dining restaurant that showcases Central Otago’s best ingredients through its Dégustation and à la carte menu. Bistro Gentil’s modern French cuisine is best enjoyed with a glass of its extensive range of fine wine. 

When he is not working, he spends time with his girlfriend, as well as doing projects around the house and gardening. Rodrigues also enjoys visiting and supporting local restaurants on his days off. He always has French cheese in the fridge, as well as different charcuteries and seasonal vegetables. 

For Rodrigues, the impacts of Covid-19 have made 2022 a difficult year. It has been a challenge managing staffing issues, which has prevented Bistro Gentil from running at full capacity. Wage increases and unskilled workers pose a big problem for small businesses, and according to Rodrigues, the upcoming summer will only exacerbate staffing issues. Unfortunately, customers are not always aware of the struggles of the service industry, which will likely take some time to return to normal operation.

Rodrigues advised that now is the best time to begin a hospitality journey, given the high wages and high quantity of jobs available.