Anna Weir went from whipping up prolific pasta at legendary Auckland Italian Amano, to Head Chef at Ponsonby’s Daphne’s concocting bold Greek flavours. She talks to express about hospitality’s post-Lockdown future and starring on TVNZ’s Snack Masters.
What inspired you to want to work in the restaurant scene?
I have had the luxury of always being surrounded by great food. Growing up on a farm in Gore meant that we ate off the land in a simple, humble, and sustainable way.
This flows through to my philosophy now of knowing and understanding the provenance of all the food I use in the restaurant.
Working in restaurants means you get to work in a melting pot, different kind of people from all corners of the globe. Everyone brings their own skillset and work together toward one common vision.
The work is dynamic, and no two days are the same, which I think is awesome!
What are the best and worst aspects of working as a chef?
For me, there’s only best. Of course, there are times when chef life can be a struggle, but I can’t think of any job that suits me better. There is something for every type of personality, and I think that is why I love it so much. There’s so much joy in finding a career where you can look around and feel at peace that this is my place, and these are my people.
As a queer woman, have you always felt embraced by the hospitality sector?
Not always, but now that I am in a position of leadership, I make sure the kitchen is a safe place for everyone to come and feel like they can be themselves.
The world can be a hard place, so I want to try and provide an environment that’s nurturing, kind and encourages everyone to be their very best.
Many of the world’s most famous chefs are men. Does it feel like the elite of your industry is still a bit of a boy’s club?
The boys have certainly dominated this arena for a long time, and perhaps for good reason. Kitchen workload is high, and it can be ruthless under that amount of pressure, but I have seen quite a change in the last few years, a tilt to a more balanced and nurturing career path which I think is long overdue and I do think it’s the women (with the support of men) who are pioneering this movement. Hospitality is a highly competitive industry, but now it is becoming more collaborative and supportive rather than one against another.
The pandemic has presented unique challenges for the hospitality industry. What do you think hospitality businesses need to move forward and thrive at ‘orange’ and ‘green’ alert settings?
For ya’ll to come out and eat!
What do you think the future of dining out in Aotearoa looks like?
If I knew that, I would be a millionaire! Hospitality is such an innovative and dynamic industry that pivots and tilts as it needs to, but at the end of the day, it’s just great food, wine and incredible service.
What inspired you to get involved in Snack Masters, where top chefs compete to recreate New Zealand’s favourite snacks?
I love a challenge, and I wanted my nieces and nephews to think I was cool being on the TV.
Your challenge is to replicate the biscuit Toffee Pop – were you pleased when you found out this was your challenge?
I was devastated. Sweets are not my strength.
Snack Masters is hosted by express-favourite Tom Sainsbury. What was it like to work with the Snapchat Dude, and was he as funny in real life?
Tom is hysterically funny, but he is also so much more than that. He was so supportive and made us all feel relaxed, given we were all very far out of our comfort zones. He made me feel like a superhero. Thank you Tom!
Snack Masters is streaming now on TVNZ.co.nz