Mike Shatura, head chef at The Grounds in Auckland, has always loved cooking and eating. “Only now I’ve realised how happy high-end cooking makes me,” he told Restaurant and Cafe.

It is a passion that has translated into success for Shatura, having worked at top restaurants in New Zealand and in Canada. “In my early years I spent a lot of time in the best Italian kitchens in New Zealand,” he said. “Pretty much anything that came out of them was an inspiration for a young cook. Simple Italian cooking, refined.”

This journey eventually led him to The Grove, one of Auckland’s most acclaimed restaurants. Shatura left The Grove at the end of 2016 to manage the day-to-day running of the kitchen at The Grounds, part of Whoa! Studios, a unique fusion of fine dining, extravagant playground and puppet shows in West Auckland. The Grounds is run by Ben Bayly, under whom Shatura had been working at The Grove, another of the celebrity chef’s Auckland restaurants.

Shatura says that his biggest achievement was picking up three Hats in the Good Food Guide while working at The Grove and maintaining them for two years. “However, it’s not a personal achievement,” he explains. “I couldn’t have done it without the team and Ben’s watchful eye.” Shatura also cites Bayly as his greatest influence. “I’ve learned a lot from him. Cooking, discipline and philosophy on food in general – we’re like brothers.”

While his favourite ingredients are too lengthy to list, he cannot live without salt and butter. He likes to keep his cooking basic, with grilling and baking his preferred methods, although is looking at branching out. “At the moment I’m trying to learn as much as I can about fermented foods. I find it quite exciting.” This is translating into his menus, trying to implement Asian influences such as kimchi into his cooking. His dish that will follow him wherever he goes is ravioli, he said, although he also likes making terrine and consommé. “I love making pasta and I get a lot of satisfaction from making terrines and consommé. No matter how many times you make them it’s always challenging.” However, for all the fermented cabbage or terrine in the world, he couldn’t go past one of his mum’s Russian style salads.

He keeps updated on trends through books, magazines and YouTube, and recently visited the Ōra King Salmon facility in Nelson. While his dream job is at Eleven Madison Park, the newly-crowned No. 1 restaurant in the world, right now he is 100 per cent committed to The Grounds.

As for his future plans, Shartura wants to “just keep pushing.”