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Simon Pepping’s life is a smorgasbord of food.

Simon Pepping grew up around food. His father and uncles are chefs, but his earliest memories of food come from eating with his grandparents. They were retired and grew all their own vegetables, pickling and preserving any excess. Simon remembers them picking vegetables for dinner and prepping them in the lounge ‘while watching some old-timers’ programme like Last of the Summer Wine or something. Eating fruit from their trees. Hitting surplus lemons around with a cricket bat.’

These days, Simon is a qualified chef, managing director of Egmont St Eatery and The Catering Studio, and he also manages Rogue Burger and Sterling – in Wellington. Those early food memories have become part of Simon’s food philosophy. Which is? ‘Keep it simple, use what’s in season, support the small guys, use every part of the vegetable or animal that you can.’

Most of Simon’s spare time is spent with his two children, boys aged three and five. Making and collecting Lego is a popular activity. Simon also collects sneakers and cookbooks. On the weekends Simon will try and cook something. He says he can ‘pull off a pretty mean crispy-skin pork belly, which I learnt from my time at Amisfield in Queenstown.’ In the summers he spends more time outside cooking on his Japanese Hibachi grill.

Simon Pepping. Photo by Anna Briggs.

Simon is studying for Level 3 WSET (a qualification from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust)  – he’s got a 2.5 hour exam testing his core knowledge of wines from around the world to look forward to. Eventually he’d like to take on the Level 4 Diploma, an internationally recognized professional qualification that can lead to the ultimate qualification, the Master of Wine.

Simon’s absolute favourite thing to eat is noodles – Mee Goreng at home, Char Kway Teow from Oaks Noodle House, or Ramen from Piss Alley in Shinjuku, Japan. Speaking of Japan, that’s his favourite destination out of New Zealand, ‘for the culture, food, snow and the amazing people. Closely followed by the USA (not because of the people).’ Here his favourite holiday spots are ‘my mum’s place in Whangamata, or Wanaka, for the mountains.’ In the capital, Simon heads to Tatsushi for Japanese, Ortega for the food and service, the Larder for bread, Noble Rot for wine and Crumpet for liquor. ‘What attracts me about these places is not just the food or drinks, but the people behind them,’ he says.

Fast five with Simon
Collects: Sneakers
Best dish: Crispy-skin pork belly
Currently reading: The Way We Eat Now by Bee Wilson
Dream holiday: Japan
Favourite artist: Ellie Compton

First published Capital #63
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