Jacqueline Smith is The Landing’s cherished head chef; her incredible talents in the kitchen and warm, welcoming personality make her one in a million. We pitched her a few questions, and her answers convey just how special this role, and The Landing experience, really are.
How long have you been at The Landing?
I have been here at The Landing since 2012.
What do you enjoy about your day-to-day work at The Landing?
Every day I feel very privileged to be working in such a unique piece of paradise. I love to forage in the gardens, the orchards and the berry house to gather my produce to create dishes and bring them to life for our guests to enjoy. The Landing is a place where I can “be me” at work, forget about the everyday hustle and bustle of life, and be inspired by the beautiful surroundings. Each person who works here plays an important part in creating this special environment and making this an enjoyable journey to be part of.
What is your favourite cuisine to cook?
For all of my dishes, my passion lies in bringing a sense of New Zealand to the plate, exploring the flavours and freshness that our country has to offer. To create a little difference in each dish, I love to infuse Mediterranean and Middle Eastern spices, to achieve rich and earthy flavours. These combinations somehow reflect what I feel at The Landing.
What is your favourite dining location at The Landing?
It’s hard to choose, as they are all special and unique to me in different ways, but I would have to say The Boathouse. It has everything to offer, from an intimate candle-lit dinner for two, dining right by the sea with the sunset in the background, to a big gathering around the pizza oven and BBQ.
I also like the Cooper Residence because of its alfresco dining, beautiful big rustic tables, the outdoor kitchens, and the home-like ambience. It brings the family around the table.
Can you tell us about the fresh produce at The Landing?
The produce at The Landing is by far the best I have ever experienced and worked with. It’s a chef’s dream to have an abundance of fresh, organic and seasonal produce at your doorstep, including the range of edible flowers I use to garnish.
Walking into the berry house, I love the smell of fresh summer berries and the sweetness that hits me. I love to choose from the huge variety that is grown in there. Collecting the fresh free-range eggs out of the chicken coop is an experience in itself.
We have three varieties of old heritage fig trees on the property that were planted in the 1800s when the early settlers arrived. I include these in my seasonal menus and chutneys and jams. I enjoy picking the different varieties of fruit in the orchard, from the old fashioned quince to plums, apples, tamarillos, feijoas… the list goes on. My knowledge of all of our produce has grown, because every day I liaise with our amazing gardener Leigh who fills me in on what vegetables are new and what is ready to harvest. My favourite question to hear from Leigh is: “What else can we grow for you?”
I feel connected to The Landing in many ways, but mainly because it brings back a lot of childhood memories when I go out to forage and gather produce for my menus.
If a guest at The Landing is a real foodie, what experiences can you share with them?
The experiences I can share with guests include gathering fresh produce from our gardens or orchards and taking it into the kitchen to create a dish with it. The responses I see and hear are so worthwhile; guests are always amazed at how fun and easy it is to provide and eat from the land. It is so simple to catch a fresh fish off the jetty and cook it straight away, and yet it’s a mind blowing experience to some. I have met guests who have never picked a fresh vegetable from the garden in their life. Something I take for granted (such as taking a guest to the chicken coop to gather some free-range eggs) can easily be an experience that person will never forget.
In the past, I have done baking lessons with children here, which are an absolute delight, and again evoke a childhood memory for me, which makes them even more special.