Cook & Nelson Conversations 05: Rich Johns Okere Falls Café and Craft Brew Store
Rich Johns from Okere Falls Café & Craft Brew Bar (near Rotorua) is this year’s Great NZ Toastie Takeover winner for his ‘Get Smoked, Pickled + Toasted’ creation consisting of house-smoked, beer-brined brisket, McClure's Pickles, hop-salted mozzarella, smoked cheddar, watercress, and horseradish on spent grain sourdough with pickle brine sour cream and a beer gravy dipping bowl. Trust us, it’s worth travelling for. We catch up with Rich in a rare moment’s down time to get a little more insight into the guy behind this year’s epic winning creation.
What gets you out of bed each morning?
Literally speaking, our 5 yr old Labrador, T-Rex, jumping on me when he is allowed into the room and smothering me in affection.
On a work level, the opportunity to experiment with something new in the kitchen or test out an idea that has been bubbling away. Hanging with our awesome crew at Okere Falls who are always chill and full of classic banter.
Favourite date night haunt?
Long Beach Tavern in Waikanae Beach in the back garden bar area, so many good times with my family.
Favourite Cook & Nelson product and why?
Has to be the McClure’s Pickles, after opening 500kg plus of pickles in the last couple of years and eating a few pickles from each tub before anyone else does and still being fond of them speaks volumes haha.
What are you reading right now?
I wish I had time to read more books, currently it is a mountain of emails each day. But, I do love a good Haruki Murakami novel in between some cook books.
Rewatching Breaking Bad with my wife Helen, who is watching it for the first time.
Listening to (podcast / music or both)? Podcast:
Did I Ever Tell You The One About… MF DOOM on Spotify, a deep dive into one of the legends of Hip Hop. Music: This Is Mungo’s Hi Fi playlist on Spotify.
Favourite destination in NZ and why?
Oooph, tough decision this one. Torn between my Grandad’s little old bach in Waikane Beach for history and new family memories with my wife, son and dog, Raglan because it is epic and we love spending time there and thirdly, West Coast of the South Island because it is just an awe inspiring place of beauty.
- Waikane Beach
Favourite holiday destination – anywhere in the world?
San Fransisco Bay Area.
My ideal weekend is ...
Waking up to the warm sun streaming in the window, a decent coffee, hangs with the family, a nice walk or mountain bike in the forest with our lab, lunch at a café, a couple of afternoon craft beers in the sun a cruisy, snacky dinner and chilling with the fam.
What's your guilty foodie pleasure?
Fries, but cooked properly, at least twice so there are heaps of crispy bits, and decent sauces and plenty of salt.
If you weren't working at Okere Falls, what would you do / be? I’m really happy with where I am at right now. In a former life I was a wedding phographer which was great for a time but took me away a lot. We work long hours at Okere Falls but I still get to go home every night and love what I do.
What's your favourite kitchen hack?
A little sugar in the salt.
One ingredient that you can't live without?
Chilli, I just love what it can do to any kind of dish.
Favourite dish (anywhere in the world) At the moment it is our chilli scramble on our breakfast menu, I could eat it everyday for ever! Chilli scramble eggs, sambal + sriracha blend sauce, chilli peanut crunch, toasted coconut, crispy shallots, sesame seeds fresh coriander on buttered sourdough.
Favourite website or social handle for foodie inspo
David Neville @eatingat3am on Instagram, so much shared information for the hospo industry, beautiful photography, simplicity with intricacy.