Experienced chef, Jacqui Brown, moved to New Zealand from South Africa this year and took up her new position in June. “We are going to bring the standard of Elsie’s up and hopefully offer everybody a destination, rather than just something to fill their tummy,” she says.
Jacqui trained as a chef at the Christina Martin Professional Chef School in Durban and her exciting career includes working at The Royal Hotel in Durban, working at a hotel in London and owning her own pub/café venue along the waterfront in Hillcrest, South Africa. From there, Jacqui says she decided to venture out of the kitchen and try her hand at book-keeping, design and website work. “It didn’t last very long because I need food in my life – it kind of drives me,” she says. So Jacqui opened up her own cooking school, where she trained chefs through the City & Guilds system. Jacqui and her husband then launched Ginja Food Magazine – to inspire and empower readers to “live life fuller”. “In conjunction with that, I opened a studio kitchen where people could come and learn,” Jacqui says. “We would do wine pairings and whiskey pairings and all that kind of thing.” Jacqui and her husband then decided they wanted to grow their careers in a more secure environment – so they made the move to Tuakau.
Jacqui is excited about her new venture, in her new town. “There’s an element of sincerity and heart in Tuakau. People here have a lot to offer and a lot to give,” she says. As a traditional Italian-trained chef, Jacqui says she will introduce delicious homemade pasta to the menu at Elsie’s – alongside some tasty vegetarian and vegan dishes.
Using local produce and meat will be a vital part of her new menu. “You guys are lucky in that your fruit, your vegetables and your meat is local and you have access to that. So I want to focus on supporting locals – I think that’s extremely important,” Jacqui says. “I want to bring the flavours out in what we do – more homemade rather than synthetic. Our customers can expect a dining experience.”
Tuakau Hotel has also become a finalist for this year’s Hospitality New Zealand Awards for excellence in two categories, Best Country Hotel and Best dish over $25.00.