Welcome to Cook & Nelson Conversations, where, once a month we highlight one of our favourite people, be it a local creative / artist / hospo friend or quite simply anyone we think you’ll be interested to get to know more. To kick off the series is Nick Brown, co-owner and founder of Cook & Nelson.
What gets you out of bed each morning?
The kids! But more seriously the idea of knocking off my to do list.
Favourite date night haunt?
We just had a great date night dinner at Hello Beasty in Auckland for our anniversary - the food was great, I got my own vegan menu so didn’t have to pick through hunting for ‘v’s’, and the atmosphere was excellent, really buzzing and super friendly service.
- Hello Beasty
Favourite Cook & Nelson product and why?
That’s difficult, it’s like asking me to pick my favourite child! But if I was forced to choose one then I'd pick McClure's Sweet and Spicy Pickles, they are just about perfect… everything i want in a pickle - super fresh, nice crunch, excellent flavour, little bit of sweet, a little bit of heat… banging in a word! They just go so well with everything - you can eat them out of the jar or use them as an ingredient.
What are you reading right now?
"That Old Ace in the Hole" by Annie Proux. I can’t put my finger on what it is that I love about this book but like all Annie Proux she puts you in a place - you feel the land, the weather, its layered history… it is done subtly without getting weighed done in heavy prose, a light touch that puts you there in a very rich way! The characters are also very well rounded, they are real and complex. It’s a great place to go at the end of each day.
I just watched the first episode of Snack Masters on TVNZ on Demand, it was good. I like the premise of top chefs trying to recreate an everyday favourite that’s usually mass produced… it’s a great creative challenge!
Listening to (podcast / music or both)?
I listen to Mark Moran’s “WTF” Podcasts whenever I travel any distance. He’s very funny and he’s lived a life that he’s not afraid of sharing. He also establishes fantastic rapport with his guests - he has a particularly good one with Sam Neill.
Favourite holiday destination – NZ?
We go for holidays in Whangapoua in the Coromandel with our extended family and it’s our favourite place to be together. There’s a cool waterhole that I take the kids to where they jump off high rocks, an octopus in the harbour that we get to snorkel around, endless days boogie boarding with the kids and creating feasts for at least 10 people around the dinner table each night. And the odd fishing trip over to the Mercury Islands is always a favourite.
- Whangapoua with Ella, Ralph (the dog) and Harry
Favourite holiday destination – anywhere in the world?
I’d love to go back to the Bahamas - I went there when I was a kid and it really impacted me at that age with its distinctive light, smells and the colours. There was a street festival and it was so colourful filled with music and dance. Coming from a small village in England I’d never seen anything like it. When I was younger I used to watch a lot of nature documentaries especially Jacques Cousteau and going to the Bahamas was like getting to see it for real, the coral reefs, the jungle... and then to top it all off we climbed a waterfall that spills through the jungle that’s in the bond movie Dr. No, where Ursula Andrews is seen collecting shells. It’s a stunning and beautiful place. I'd love to take our children there one day.
- Dunn's River Falls Jamaica
My ideal weekend is...one at home with the family - one thing about lockdown is we’ve really enjoyed spending time together and relaxing. On Saturdays I’ll go for a run through Le Roy’s Bush with our giant Labradoodle Ralph and I’ve started cold water immersion so I go swimming in Little Shoal Bay most mornings. I have started doing bell ringing at St Matthew’s in the City so you’ll find me there ringing the bells each Sunday morning - I used to ring bells in my village in England so I’m loving doing this again and I’m a bit of a house plant junkie so Sunday afternoons are made for tending my plants then I normally cook up a Sunday night feast.
- Ella and Harry on a family adventure
What's your guilty foodie pleasure?
I would say Tony’s Chocolonely as I eat it every evening but I never feel guilty about eating that chocolate!
If you hadn’t started Cook & Nelson what would you be doing? Maybe a chef - I believe I have a pretty good palate and can hold an idea of a dish and the ingredients in mind; food has always been at the heart of every occasion and of my idea of family. I really enjoy process and creativity and like to work and see the results… so it feels like a reasonable fit!
What's your favourite kitchen hack?
For years I struggled with peeling garlic - but now I know to roll it between my palms to take off the skin or to crush it with a knife, discovering that was a game changer! My other one is when cooking tomatoes not using fresh cherry tomatoes when canned ones would do just give them a rinse… you can save a fortune!
Your go-to cocktail/drink?
My go to drink is Good Sh*t Soda - I love the fact that it has so many health benefits and is really delicious.
One ingredient that you can't live without?
I use Huffman’s Hot Sauce on everything - I use it in lieu of salt as a seasoning and it brings in acidic notes which brings in balance and makes flavours pop. A splash of Huffman’s works in harmony with most of the dishes I cook. I also use Fix & Fogg Peanut Butter every day in my smoothies - we lived in Wellington and used to do markets together right at the start of Fix and Fogg and it’s been incredible to see how the company has grown!
Where do you draw inspiration from (personally & professionally)?
I find inspiration in anyone who is bold and gets things done by taking big steps.
Current go to recipe
Ottolenghi’s Puy Lentil and Aubergine stew from his recipe book Simple is my current go to because it’s quick, easy and tasty.
- Ottolenghi’s Puy Lentil and Aubergine stew
Favourite dish from outside NZ?
My favourite dish in the world is a traditional Mowbray Pork Pie, though I’m vegan and don’t eat flour or butter etc…I think it is the prefect food and one I'd otherwise forego my diet choices for!
- Mowbray Pork Pie