04/03/2015 05:00 EDT | Updated 06/01/2015 05:59 EDT

The Best of Wine & Food in Queenstown, New Zealand

Group of people at dinner table raising glasses, low angle view
Adrian Weinbrecht via Getty Images
Group of people at dinner table raising glasses, low angle view

"I'm a Scottish man living in Australia making Italian food."

Sean Connolly is a hard one to catch these days -- the man does run four restaurants, after all. While hopping between his family home of Sydney, Australia and Auckland, New Zealand to manage things, he recently took a side trip to Queenstown and added star power to the SKYCITY Gibbston Wine & Food Festival.

Before setting up for his master class sessions, I got a chance to chat with the MasterChef Australia (and New Zealand) judge. Here are his secrets for success that are actually very handy kitchen tips:

• Keep it simple and produce-driven. "The less you do, the better it tastes."

• Cook with virgin olive oil; finish (ie. drizzle, toss) with extra virgin olive oil. Sean is actively trying to get New Zealand olive oils into his restaurants.

• Agria potatoes make the best duck fat chips. "Straight from the farm, no refrigeration. We don't make the chips if we can't get them."

Check out the best of the festival, and more around Queenstown, in the slideshow. Then try Sean's very own recipe for a steak tartare that's making mouths water at his restaurant The Grill in Auckland.

Story continues below slideshow

Photo galleryThe Best of Wine and Food in Queenstown, New Zealand See Gallery


Serves four


• 320g beef eye fillet, chopped

• 40g shallots, finely diced

• 40g pickles, finely diced

• 8g Italian parsley, chopped

• 4 egg yolks

• 60g Dijon mustard

• 40g capers, finely chopped

• 32g Yorkshire relish

• 4g sweet smoked paprika

• 8ml hot sauce

• 4g flakey sea salt

• 40ml extra virgin olive oil

• 2 heads baby cos lettuce


In a large bowl mix all ingredients except the olive oil and cos lettuce. Spoon onto a plate, drizzle with olive oil and serve with lettuce boats.

Pair with a beautiful Gibbston Valley Pinot Noir.

Other lesser-known labels to look for while in New Zealand's Central Otago region include Mt Rosa, Waitiri Creek, Valli and Kalex.

For more good stuff from Sean Connolly check out his easy (potato-free) gnocchi recipe at