Good caught up with Alex Aitken, the newly appointed head chef of Mt Eden’ restaurant Molten, about its refreshed menu focusing on seasonal ingredients for a refined bistro feel.
How would you describe the food style at Molten? In other words, if you had to describe it to someone who was unfamiliar with Molten and your style of cooking, what would you say?
It’s a modern take on bistro food with wide ranging influences. The dishes themselves are quite precise as I have a fine dining approach to plating.
What is your philosophy when it comes to food and providence? And how do you practice that?
We have close relationships with all of the suppliers of our key ingredients like Pokeno Butchers next door, and Leelands Lamb in Waitaki. It’s really important on several levels; firstly, in the case of meat and seafood, we need to ensure that the produce is ethically treated and comes from a sustainable source. Secondly, if responsible farming practices are in place, it leads to better produce. Lastly, we like to support some of the smaller suppliers around NZ that eschew profits in favour of quality.
What do you love most about process of creating a new dish?
The development. You may start out with something in mind, but after some trial and error it may turn out very different but equally satisfying.
Is there a signature dish on the menu that you have become known for?
It may be a little too early to identify one signature dish, but the duck and the pork belly have both proven to be very popular. Regulars order them time and again.
Who has been your biggest influence on your career to date?
Ben Bayley and Michael Meredith.
What is your favourite dish on the menu and why?
I’d say my favourite dish on the menu would be the Duck dish, smoked duck breast, confit duck leg French toast, textures of Beetroot and Rhubarb, cauliflower and vanilla. All round great tasting, well balanced, interesting flavours that all compliment the duck.
Wine matching is part of the experience at Molten. Do you think of particular wines when designing a dish or the menu? What are your thoughts on wine matching?
There is plenty of science surrounding food and wine matching, but at the end of the day you really need to listen to what the customer enjoys and try to work around that. There are things we can take into account such as tannins in wine that react adversely to the oils in fish, but if someone really wants a red wine we can recommend something low in tannin such as a cru Beaujolais. You could have the most technically perfect wine and food match but if the person tasting it doesn’t enjoy the wine then you’ve failed.