Located in Arrowtown, in the Queenstown Lakes District, Aosta is inspired by the cooking techniques of Northern Italy. These flavours are paired with ingredients carefully selected from growers, breeders, suppliers and wine grown on the land around Central Otago and Arrowtown.
Aostas Head Chef, Steven Sepsy, grew up on the coast in Dunedin. The sea was a prominent element of his upbringing. His family would often wildly gather paua, clams & oysters and frequently went fishing. As a youngster, he would watch his mother dive for paua while playing in the rock pools. As well as being surrounded by the ocean, he grew up around the mountains of Central Otago. Hunting gave him respect for the wild game that we are lucky enough to have here in Aotearoa.
Becoming a chef was a natural transition for Sepsy as he loved to cook from a very young age. He slowly transitioned up the ranks from washing dishes and then after a lot of hard work and determination, earned his way into the kitchen.
For Sepsy, the key to creating and innovating great dishes is using an ingredient and enhancing its own distinct flavour and not overcomplicating it. “Simplicity is key. I want my guests to understand my food with every mouthful from start to finish of their dining experience.” Sepsy revealed that his everyday inspiration comes from the people and landscapes around him.
Recently, Sepsy has been trying new methods in the kitchen and working closely with Darren Lynch from Remarkable fungi, the Central Otago mushroom king. Lynch is producing a wide range of Oyster mushrooms and endemic species. At Aosta, they have been using his mushrooms and combining 5 different cooking techniques, each with its own distinct flavour and texture.
Being a part of a smaller community, he told us how he feels the need to help nurture the youth by teaching them what he has learnt through his years as a Chef. Lessons like having a strong work ethic, resilience, respect and commitment. “Being a below-knee amputee also shows my kids that anything is possible if you have the right frame of mind and drive from within yourself.”
Hospitality is Sepsy's passion. He told us how it's just not a job, it is a lifestyle. He is grateful every day to be able to meet incredible people from all over the world and that this career gives you the ability to work anywhere in the world. “The comradery that comes with hospitality is like having a second sometimes dysfunctional family,” he joked.
Sepsy revealed that being a Chef is hard work and long hours but the rewards of seeing people loving the food and the service make it an overwhelmingly rewarding profession. Sepsy’s advice for anyone wanting to be a Chef is to work hard, move around and work for the best chefs in the best kitchens.
“Be a sponge soaking up the knowledge that these chefs have learnt. But also be yourself and use your own imagination and heart when it comes to the food you wish to put on the plate.”