After Hours

Food & recipes with Faizal Kamsan

Reading time: 11 minutes

After Hours is an insight into the people of the hospitality industry. Putting a face and name to the creators of the food that you're Instagramming, the drinks you're sipping and to those who waited at your table.

[caption id="attachment_3578" align="alignleft" width="399"] Ricardo Hormazabal[/caption]

Ricardo Hormazabal
Chef-owner of Chiwi Catering.

Food & recipes with Faizal Kamsan

Reading time: 11 minutes

After Hours is an insight into the people of the hospitality industry. Putting a face and name to the creators of the food that you’re Instagramming, the drinks you’re sipping and to those who waited at your table.

Ricardo Hormazabal

Ricardo Hormazabal
Chef-owner of Chiwi Catering.

Tucked away from the peering eyes of main street Devon are parked a few food trucks housed within the compound of Liardet Street Projects. One of these trucks is none other than Chilean food specialist Chiwi Catering, bringing the flavours of South America with a touch of Kiwi twang. Armed with my trusty brown ‘bible’ (notebook) and still buzzing from my lunch service in the restaurant where I work, I made my way around the corner to hang out and have a chat with the “Latino Heat” himself – the man behind the yummy churros, empanadas and not forgetting the ever so mouth-watering paella – the only one that I know of in this town.

Being greeted with a nice ice cold Jarrito (a Mexican fizzy drink), we took refuge from the summer heat and sat indoors. I was originally introduced to Ricardo, better known as “Chiwi” amongst the local chefs, through one of our Friday sessions of Chef’s Table. Being inquisitive, I had to find out who and where Chiwi is from. Don’t be fooled by his seasoned look. It reflects the millions of stories and experiences he carries in his pocket.

Ricardo was born in Chile in the late ‘70s amidst political unrest and a military coup there which went on for 17 years, from 1973 to 1990. Taking sides wasn’t an option; one either got killed or imprisoned, so at the age of two, his parents decided that it was in the best interest for the family as well as the future of the kids to emigrate. A few choices of country were presented, such as Peru, Brazil, and Australia. Ultimately, the seniors decided that it was best to get as far away from South America as possible in search of a better, if not, safer environment to raise a family. They landed in Melbourne, Australia in 1980. This is where Ricardo’s culinary journey begins.

Migration is a process to escape from an unsatisfactory situation” – Uruj Shahid.

His cooking journey starts in the ‘‘90s as an apprentice in the kitchen of one of the most prestigious and notable names in the “Rock and Roll” era of culinary gastronomy – Wolfgang Puck. In a time when migrants are known to be ‘just cooks trying to make ends meet’, Chiwi set himself up to be the best at what he does, steering away from the mediocre stigma of being just another Latino chef. Melbourne was and still is the breeding ground for solid chefs due to it being Australia’s culinary capital which houses more than 3500 restaurants for chefs to choose from – a cutthroat industry of ‘who pays better, wins’.

Even though being a chef was frowned upon by some in his community (as to mine) – mainly the older generations of males brought up in the time where they believed men should do hard labour while the female belonged in the kitchen, regardless, Chiwi was introduced to the hospo industry through his sister who worked at the same place in front of the house as one of the shift supervisors.

The ‘90s were the hey-days of gastronomy with the likes of Marco Pierre White, Wolfgang Puck and Anthony Bourdain just to name a few of the household names. They were more than culinary gods – they were the rock stars.

In an era of regimental chefs, Ricardo soldiered on from one restaurant to the next and was careful to not burn any bridges as he crossed one to the other. It was so volatile that chefs wouldn’t hire you if they knew how bad you were in your previous employment, unlike now, where the term chef is so loose that it can be thrown around as confetti.

After years of hard labour, Ricardo landed a position in a restaurant called Simply Spanish – which won numerous awards, one of which is the Best Paella Outside of Spain in 2016 and 2018. In my opinion, this was the place that started it all for him, taking him back to his childhood memories of food. It’s the place where he actually learnt the art of paella cooking. I’d call it art as it’s not just a bunch of seafood and meat being tossed and simmered in rice, it’s rice architecture – building flavours through the layers in a pan and using one of the most expensive herbs in the world – saffron.

After years of plying his trade in Australia, Chiwi decided to jump across the pond and landed on the shores of New Zealand some five years ago, armed with knowledge, his grandmother’s salsa, and such excitement to share his cuisine not in a restaurant but in a truck – because food trucks carry happiness to the masses.

It made him mobile and able to attend as many festivals as he desired and manage to make a name for himself, too. Festivals such as One Love in Tauranga; concerts at the Bowl of Brooklands in New Plymouth; and he is also a familiar face there at the seaside market on Ngāmotu Beach.

Some may see it as just a truck serving simple food but in fact food truck chefs are one of the most hard working and imaginative chefs I’ve ever met – given the limited space they have to work in. You’d be surprised at the quality of food they churn out of the window. Believe me, it can be compared to any good local restaurant, and, in fact, it can even be better than some.

“The only restaurants that should be worried about food trucks, are the bad ones” – Andrew Zimmern

As we chatted about other things outside of the chefs’ zone, I came to know that Ricardo enjoys dancing – Latin, in particular. I’d say that in the blood of every Hispanic I meet is the trait of being merry. Speaking of which, he would love to see, or have consideration from the New Plymouth District Council to create a Latin Festival here in downtown Devon. A festival that integrates and raises awareness of the Latin Community here in New Plymouth, be it in the form of music, food and even language learning – which I’m very supportive of. After all, we are a community and to know one is to understand the other. Let’s hope we get a taste of a Latin festival when the Covid restriction is lifted.

The next time you drop into the Liardet Street Projects, grab yourself an ice cold Jarrito and say hello to Ricardo, aka Chiwi. I end this session of After Hours on a high note with nothing but respect for this amazing chef, while on a side note, Chiwi would like to give special thanks to his parents, God and to his ever-solid partner, Ashlee Kemp.

 

Chiwi Seafood Paella

As to any modern food we are enjoying now, paella was originally farmers’ and farm labourers’ food, cooked by the workers over a wood fire for the lunchtime meal. It was made with rice, plus whatever was to hand around the rice fields and countryside: tomatoes, onions, and snails, with a few beans added for flavour and texture.

Ingredients
Paella Recipe for 10 pax

100ml olive oil
150g onion sliced
100g red capsicum sliced
1 tbsp crushed garlic
200g diced chorizo
300g calamari rings
300g scallops
250g prawn cutlets
500g mussels
150g green peas
1kg arborio rice
2.5 litre stock
2 tbsp saffron (If saffron is not available, you can try it with smoked paprika)
Fresh parsley and lemon wedges to garnish

Method

  • Heat oil in a paella pan on medium heat
  • Add the onion, capsicums, garlic, and chorizo, sweat off for 2 minutes, then add turmeric and calamari rings
  • Stir until turmeric is distributed evenly
  • Add stock to a simmer, then add rice
  • Cook for 20 minutes then add mussels
  • Cook for a further 10 minutes
  • Add prawns and scallops
  • Once rice has absorbed most of the stock, finish by adding the peas
  • Garnish with parsley and lemon wedges.

There you have it, a simple paella recipe for the whanau.

Disfrute de su comida – (Spanish for) Enjoy your meal

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