This was no ordinary night in the kitchen, this was a Saturday night in the kitchen of award-winning Marlborough restaurant Arbour.
If you haven't heard of Arbour, or dined there, you are missing out on something amazing. Bradley and Liz are the dynamic duo behind Arbour and Dayvinleigh Garden proudly supplies veges for the restaurant kitchen.
This particular night was a special event, Arbour's take on the national celebration of vegetarian and vegan food; Root to Petal. So while I couldn't convince Kevin a meat free night out was a good idea I did manage to convince Bradley and Liz to let me hang out in the kitchen to lend a hand.
Putting on the Arbour apron made me reflect on what it must be like for All Blacks to put on the black shirt for the first time - I was in!
Bradley put me to work harvesting individual herb leaves, peeling pith strands off mandarins, plucking sunflower petals, then on to laying out plates and helping add different components to the dishes. The prep work is incredible and keeping ahead of the service timings was critical. Each dish is not only compiled to deliver a sensational flavour and texture combination, but also to look like a work of art. I was in my crafty element carefully placing components of the dish on the plates just as the team had demonstrated.
So what is it really like in the kitchen of a nationally recognised restaurant like?
What struck me is how quiet and calm the kitchen was (apart from the noise of kitchen gadgets). It was clear that this was a well planned menu with a great deal of thought into how and when it would all come together. This was a seven course dinner for 40 people, a logistical nightmare for the home cook.
Ajosh and Vando went about their work with a steady determination, checking in with 'Chef' every now and again on how a dish was coming together. I cheekily asked Bradley at one point when the yelling started (cooking shows have a lot to answer for in shaping our perception of the kitchen). No yelling, just reassuring words from Bradley throughout the afternoon and evening and the courteous heads up when someone was coming along behind you with a tray or hot dish.
Before guests arrived the front of house team joined the kitchen team for a briefing over a bite to eat. Bradley explained each dish and Liz went over timings and wine matches. We were ready to go.
The next couple of hours just whizzed by as plates were laid out and dishes assembled. Liz, Juliah and Astrid were in and out serving and returning with piles of empty plates, sharing feedback from the guests who were loving each dish. It was such a buzz to be part of a team creating a memorable night for the guests.
I had started at 3pm long after everyone else had arrived, and was the first turn in my apron and leave at 9.30pm. It was only when I got in the car that it occurred to me that I had been on my feet the whole time, as had everyone else, but it that it hadn't bothered me in the slightest, I loved every second of my night in the Arbour kitchen.
The next morning I was back to the garden, I have veges to grow...