Paul McDougall of Fleur’s Place, in the small Otago settlement of Moeraki, is a traditionalist. “I’m not interested in new trends,” he explains. “I like simple, seasonal fresh food and traditional cooking techniques from all over the world.”
Simple and seasonal is part of the restaurants core philosophy. Most restaurants place an emphasis on freshness – however, not every restaurant can claim to get their fish literally right off the boat. “We’re privileged to have our own fish quota for the restaurant caught each day – weather permitting – by Gavin Te Maiharoa and his brothers.”
McDougall’s favourite ingredient is warehou, and he said that his dukkah-crusted warehou with friend potatoes and ratatouille is the one dish that will follow him wherever he goes. Although he does note that he feels obliged to say that fish is his favourite ingredient, and enjoys cooking and eating fresh vegetables from the garden.
McDougall got into the industry as he initially wanted a skill to travel with, “but it stuck and I never looked back.” His practice has seen him work in Bizstro, Corstorphine House, High Tide and Ironic (all in Dunedin) and Cucina 1871 in Oamaru. Although he’s not much of a traveller these days, he’s thinking about a Fijian holiday to escape the Otago winter.
McDougall oversees as much of the running of the kitchen as possible, although when he is absent one of his former charges takes over. “My head chef Daniel started here years ago cleaning mussels as a kitchen hand, and is currently doing an apprenticeship to get some formal recognition of his skills and training.”
In the next ten years, McDougall plans to hang up the apron and live off the land on a small holding.