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It’s nearly been a year since Bazaar started to make its delightful garlic-crusted, sugar-coated mark on Queenstown. I sit down with Josh Smith-Thirkell, who was flown across the ditch to establish this gastronomic delight in Queenstown. From Executive Chef at Bazaar to, more recently, Food and Beverage Director of QT Queenstown. We chat about how Bazaar has bought it’s culinary A-game and has quickly established itself as part of the town’s thriving food scene.
Josh, what a year! Bazaar, Reds and recently QT Queenstown – how has your culinary journey led you to Queenstown?
I began my training back home in Tasmania, which was such a great place to learn to cook. Here I discovered how to treat high quality produce, and get a better understanding of the paddock to plate philosophy – which I’m thrilled to see has taken off on the culinary scene these days.
After learning what I could in Tassie, I moved to Falls Creek and began my relationship with QT – I fell in love. After my first snow season in Falls Creek, where I helped open QT Falls Creek’s Bazaar, QT Sydney’s European brasserie, Gowing’s Bar and Grill, was next.
When QT Canberra’s Capitol Bar and Grill opened with the hotel back in 2014, I met my mentor, Chef Nic Wood. He’s a huge reason I know how to run a kitchen and how I’m in the position I am now. We worked hard, made great relationships with farmers, and gained the Australian Hospitality Award for ‘The Most Prestigious Restaurant’ in the ACT.
Shortly after this, I went back to the snow as Executive Chef. The season was great, we did record numbers, and really showcased what Bazaar is capable of – so when the opportunity presented itself to do the same in Queenstown, I was buzzing. Opening Bazaar and Reds was the hardest thing I have ever done but has definitely been the highlight of my career.
Wow, a true QT-ccentric culinary journey! After all that, what’s been your biggest challenge in the last year of getting Bazaar to be the successful establishment that it is now?
Opening a new establishment takes its toll, no matter what size, cuisine or city it’s in. When we first opened on 30 December last year, the team worked massive hours and put our heart and soul into food, service and presentation.
Every chef strives for consistency and after some time, our standards remained high, like clockwork. The chefs keep passionate with being able to create dishes using produce that catches their eyes (or nose) and, most importantly, being proud of the dishes they’re presenting when they interact with guests.
Bazaar’s quickly settled into the number one spot on First Table in Queenstown, what is Bazaar’s point of difference that has got the locals salivating?
It’s quite simple, there’s something fresh and delicious for absolutely everyone, and that makes people happy. We have fresh seafood, local charcuterie and cheese boards, an organic salad bar, a wok station and the bustling carvery. In addition to this, wood fired pizzas, slow roasted dry-aged meat and a huge dessert cabinet complete with house-made treats from our pastry team.
The joy of Bazaar is that you know you’re getting the best. Our chef’s come in every morning and select what’s fresh on the day, so you’ll never see a menu for Bazaar. Now, a wine menu, you will see. We have a wine list heavily focused on New Zealand’s best drops, and with Reds next door, the biggest selection of spirits in Queenstown. Guests can take their time and experience our many culinary offerings while enjoying the most magical views of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarks.
With so much going on, what was your most memorable Bazaar moment in the last year?
It hasn’t happened just yet, but this week we have Australian Gourmet Traveller coming in for dinner. As a young chef, and now Food and Beverage Director, it’s a dream to get a write up in such a high-calibre publication such as Gourmet Traveller. It’s a little bit surreal almost.
What can we look forward to with Bazaar’s year ahead?
Our rooftop garden is absolutely booming, the meat cabinet is full of new cuts to age, and we have a few collaborations on the cards – that’s enough to keep me excited. We have the freedom to do what we want and can experiment with many different styles of cuisine to consistently keep our guests experiencing something new.
So, if you are visiting Queenstown, after skimming the slopes or tripping the trails, unwind with a sunset cocktail at Reds and then a culinary feast at Bazaar. You won’t regret it!
words by chris lee
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