James Sievewright has brought a wealth of experience to his role as head chef at Quench, the classy in-house restaurant at Chateau Marlborough, an 80-room luxury hotel located a stone’s throw from Blenheim’s town centre.
James, 35, had previously sharpened his skills at a range of eateries – hotels, restaurants, cafés, grills and pubs – in England, Scotland and New Zealand before landing this plum job.
His résumé includes four years at Iguana Street Bar & Restaurant in Hamilton, where he worked his way up to sous-chef, a similar position at Queenstown’s prestigious Botswana Butchery restaurant, and a spell at the lavish Distinction Dunedin Hotel.
James and his wife Melissa, who’s from New Plymouth and also works in hospitality in Blenheim, have two children; daughter Summer, aged 10, and son Cameron who recently turned nine.
Originally from the UK, James joined Quench only a year ago but since then has introduced diners to some novel and exciting dishes including wild rabbit pie and wild wallaby casserole – with wild goat coming this winter – all from Blenheim-based Premium Game.
He’s also keen on featuring other locally sourced produce, including olive oils from the Waihopai Valley, fresh vegetables from Nelson and buffalo mozzarella from Canterbury.
From a mouth-watering menu at Quench, James singles out the signature dish, Te Mana oyster lamb braised in merlot, and the special reserve Scotch fillet. With dishes like those it’s hardly surprising the restaurant picked up a 2019 New Zealand Beef and Lamb award, its fourth in the past five years.
James is also into handmade pastas. “Last year I made my own gnocchi, in a butternut pumpkin puree, and this summer we’ve been making our own ravioli filled with the buffalo mozzarella.”
That streak of inventiveness and creativity was no doubt one reason James reached the finals of the 2019 Australasian Hotel Chef of the Year Awards in Sydney, lining up in a field of 30 top chefs at an event attended by almost 1000 people.
Although James is naturally proud of the hospitality industry accolades, his main focus is on giving customers – hotel guests and casual visitors alike – a first-class and very memorable dining experience.
“Meat is something I enjoy cooking,” he says. “One of my aims is for Quench to become known as one of the better steak houses in this region.”
Quench is open for dinner from 5pm until late and can seat 80 guests inside while another 40 can dine al fresco. The restaurant provides a great venue for everything, from intimate dining to staff work functions to ladies’ night cocktails on Saturdays.
While things can be super busy over summer with a constant stream of tour groups staying in-house, James says from now through to the end of October is the perfect time for locals to call in and enjoy all that this amazing restaurant has to offer at a more relaxed pace.