Meet the Chef: Sebastian Lisanti, Cone & Flower

'Coming from a family whose ancestors were half Italian and half Spansh, I've always been close to cooking and enjoying food," said Sebastian Lisanti, Head Chef at Cone & Flower.

Located near the beautiful Esk river, Cone & Flower specialises in serving simple and beautiful flavour pairings, showcasing the best produce that the East Coast has to offer in a relaxed dining atmosphere.

Born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Lisanti grew up eating his grandmother's cooking, including dishes that ranged from Spanish seafood classics to comfort meals like handmade ravioli.

"Everything she made was eclectic, delicious and fun!"

Lisanti's personal cooking style and Cone & Flower's menu incorporates both his cultural background and work experience. With many years of working in the fine dining scene under his belt, including a number of restaurants with international recognition, Lisanti blends good technique with South American and Mediterranean influences.

He also enjoys playing around with unexpected flavour pairings and visually appealing plating.

"This allows me to create a good impact, not only when people try our dishes, but also when the food arrives at the table."

During winter last year Cone & Flower put on a special event to highlight the beauty of truffle, which saw the staff trekking three kilometres away from the restaurant to collect Esk Valley truffles. The truffle harvested was later used in dishes like the beetroot carpaccio with goat cheese and truffle, truffled camembert and truffled white pizza.

"A highlight from that weekend was definitely the truffle tiramisu that Pauline, our sous chef, developed just for the event. It was next level!"

Recently, the Cone & Flower team have been working on developing their personal herb garden. Using wine barrels donated by Petane Wines, they have put together 23 different herb varieties that are either used in their dishes, or collected to be made into green oils.

Lisanti is proud that despite being established for just a mere six months, Cone & Flower was awarded the Best Regional Restaurant award at the 2022 Hawke's Bay Hospitality Awards.

He asserted that the impacts of the pandemic have highlighted the importance of human connection in hospitality.

"Hospitality is not just about the food, the beverages or the produce. It's about the people and the link with their communities."

For Lisanti, connecting with customers and their suppliers is of utmost importance.

"Local produce doesn't just appear out of nowhere. Someone has decided to plant it, grow it and take maximum care to achieve the best results. Without that person, none of it would be available. Knowing your person is knowing your produce."

In the future he hopes to take Cone & Flower to the national stage.