Interview: Lucas Parkinson Founder and Chef of Ode – Wanaka’s newest restaurant
Good friends of ours recently made the short list for some very prestigious marketing awards and with all four of us lovers of great food, we decided to celebrate in style and try Wanaka’s newest restaurant in town Ode. We were not disappointed, in fact we uncovered rare talent and a chef willing to push the envelope not only with his cooking abilities but also with his restaurant offering.
My job is to sell great properties here in Wanaka, but what I also do is sell Wanaka and its many assets, when we have talent like this is well worth telling people about it. I was able to get an hour of Lucas Parkinson time, Head chef and founder of Ode, Wanaka’s answer to Auckland’s fine dining.
When did Ode open?
26 May 2017
How long have you been involved with previous restaurants within the region?
11 years of cooking in NZ and Australia and 5 years in Central Otago.
In your words how does Ode distinguish itself from other restaurants in Wanaka?
We’re doing something different and original for Wanaka – world class food in a relaxed environment using local organic produce doing set menus. It’s the way that good restaurants have gone, it’s pioneering for Wanaka but greatly expressed in the world scene.
What kind of experience can people expect when dining at Ode?
The casualness of a relaxed bistro matched with world class food and expertly chosen wines and spirits. Dinner with a personal touch and knowledgable staff.
What is the most rewarding part of your role with Ode?
Seeing and hearing people enjoying my artwork. I can’t paint well unless it’s on a plate. Also witnessing something that I had envisioned with my minds eye, come to fruition.
What have been key considerations from a chef’s perspective when opening a new business in Wanaka?
Finding intelligent and confident staff, business planning thoroughly and dropping ones ego when things don’t go to plan. Oh and using local organic produce.
Where do you draw inspiration from when you create new dishes?
I’m a 3rd generation chef that’s done over a decade on the world stage so that helps. I think my grandfathers are helping me, maybe watching over me channeling me ideas. I don’t plan or create menus, food seems to come to me whimsically combined with what’s in season.
Best place to get coffee in Wanaka?
Ode (Only because we have Jim Scott here and Venus beans he roasted himself and organic jersey milk) apart from that I’d say Relishes if Chev is on.
Does Wanaka differ from other NZ regions for your line of work? If so, how so?
Very much so. The shoulder seasons take a bit of getting used to and hospitality pay is pretty dismal here unless you’re a head chef or highly trained/qualified sous. We’re changing that though.
What is Wanaka best kept secret?
Where the warm swimming spots are in the lake. They’re secrets though.
Best advice for people moving to Wanaka?
If you don’t have a positive attitude this place will chew you up and spit you out pretty quickly. Also live modestly in a minimalist fashion and give care for our ecosystem.
It’s 10am on a Sunday morning, where would we find you and what are you doing?
Snowboarding with my daughter and girlfriend.
Favourite time of year in Wanaka and why?
February. Love those long hot sunny Wanaka days eating stone fruit and berries.
To book a table or learn more, see Ode’s website here