He’s cooked for British Prime Ministers at 10 Downing Street, heads of state at the Athens Olympics, Elton John at his country manor, Sting at his villa in Florence, and even Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle. Now he’s back in Aotearoa and cooking for you at your place… meet LittleWolf Executive Chef John Nicholson.
It’s a long way from Buckingham Palace to a paddock in rural Auckland, but LittleWolf head chef John Nicholson says the food can be just as good at either.
“A lot of people think catering is not as nice as restaurant food, but I’m a firm believer that you can bring restaurant-quality food to the middle of a field,” he says.
And he should know. Since he graduated from AUT cooking school around the turn of the millennium, his work has taken him around the world, including behind the stove at some of the most glamorous venues and private residences in Europe.
During his six years with boutique London catering company The Admirable Crichton, which held a Royal Warrant, he frequently cooked for functions at Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace.
After moving to equally high-end caterer Rocket Food, which held the warrant for catering at 10 Downing Street, he cooked for British prime ministers, Burberry fashion house and the Royal Academy of Arts, and travelled the world fuelling the AMG Petronas Formula One team.
It was a chef’s paradise, with no expense spared and premium ingredients flown from across the planet, but in 2014 John decided it was time to leave the flamboyant celebrity parties and glamorous society weddings behind and come home.
“My wife couldn’t cope with me working 90 hours a week,” he says. “We had our baby and I decided to reprioritise and put family first.”
He spent a couple of years teaching but missed being hands-on in the kitchen, so it wasn’t long until he followed his heart back into catering, where he’s now head chef at LittleWolf and sharing his world-class experience with Aucklanders.
“I love the variety that event catering offers and the fact that a lot is bespoke and specific to listening to what the client wants,” he says. “I like that every day is different.”
John’s menus bring together classic and contemporary dishes from myriad cuisines, inspired by his travels around the world. “My style is very diverse,” he says. “I wouldn’t narrow it down to one genre because as caterers we need to please such a wide variety of clientele.”
He’s especially passionate about the kind of events LittleWolf specialises in – medium-scale weddings, parties, events and corporate functions, where his creative team can bring restaurant-quality food to any location and LittleWolf’s event managers can tailor a unique experience for guests.
“A real driver for us, and what sets us apart, is our innovation in the way things are presented. I believe you eat with your eyes first. We add a bit of theatre and showmanship in the way our food is plated.”
John’s a big fan of getting out of the kitchen and adding a little theatre to an event with teppanyaki grill at the table, an oyster bar or another type of live action food station. “It’s really great to have that interaction of a chef shucking oysters and someone pouring champagne at an Oyster and Champagne Bar.”
It’s about giving guests a meal and an experience they wouldn’t get at home.
“Even in our ready-to-eat delivered catering boxes we try to appeal to a more discerning clientele, who want something a bit more exciting for their board meetings, corporate lunches, after-work drinks and client functions. The way food is presented in our customised boxes, and with our on-time delivery guarantee, is all about giving a premium service for the same price you’d pay for ordinary catering.
“There are a lot of caterers in Auckland but most of them are fairly generic. We’ve always aimed to be a bit more creative, a little more contemporary, while remaining competitively priced.
“Whether it’s delivered catering boxes or a wedding or special event, I’m happy to write bespoke menus if there’s something you want that you can’t see on our menu. Let us know and we’ll work together to make it better than you could have imagined.”