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Epicurean Escape with Head Chef Steven Paterson

It’s a great distance from Livingston, Scotland to Poronui, New Zealand – and Canada was very nearly the beneficiary of Steven Paterson’s passion for purity and perfection in food. But happenstance brought Steven to join the Poronui family, where he instantly felt at one with the outdoor environment, and the strong sense of pride everyone who works at Poronui brings with them every day.

Steven comes from a family where cooking has always been more than simply putting food on the table. His mother and brother are both chefs, and family dinners were a culinary battleground as they competed to make the best lasagna, or the most inspiring way to serve meat, potatoes and two veg. There was always a pot of soup on the stove and an experimental dish to sample.

Steven’s first job was working in his brother’s kitchen and he expanded his knowledge and love of food by travelling and working through Europe, Asia and Australia before coming to a halt in Alderney off the coast of France. It was here Steven decided he needed to make a bigger move, and take himself to live in another country on a more permanent basis.

Canada and New Zealand were on the short list, and luckily for Poronui, Steven and his partner Marie came to New Zealand first, looking for roles that combined cooking with an outdoor lifestyle. Steven fell in love with Poronui in August 2015, the moment he drove through the sentinel pines leading down to the Lodge – the spiritual centre of Poronui. While the outdoor environment was attractive, Steven was drawn as much by the very same elements of the Poronui experience that lead guests to fall in love with it. Everyone who comes to Poronui has a passion for being there. Guests are genuinely excited about what each day will bring, and are truly appreciative of everything the team at Poronui do. No two days are the same, but they all end with guests gathering around the bar in the Lodge, sharing stories of the day’s adventures and sampling some of the canapes crafted in Steven’s kitchen with a glass of fine New Zealand wine in hand.

While the dining experience at Poronui has always been first class, Steven has been tasked with taking it to another level. To him that means getting back to basics. He wants to show the best of what New Zealand has to offer in his menu, which means getting to know the people that produce the ingredients – from the orchardist responsible for the locally grown figs or sweet plums, to producers of cold pressed virgin olive oils. From wagyu and lamb producers to artisan cheesemakers, to vineyards in Hawkes Bay with their robust peppery syrahs and sublime sauvignon blancs. Steven has embarked on his research with gusto, visiting local producers and farmer’s markets in the Hawkes Bay and further afield to Auckland and Wellington.

New Zealand has short seasons for fruit and vegetables. Steven wants to identify seasonal produce and develop menus showcasing those flavours when they are available. Al Brown has been a great source of inspiration, having hosted Food & Wine weekends with his Poronui family for over ten years now. Steven has tapped into Al’s extensive local knowledge, his connections with local suppliers and his shared philosophy of food.

In his first season at Poronui, Steven focused a great deal on logistics. He has built an amazing team who are committed to the journey with him and being part of the Poronui family year on year. He is getting a handle on ingredients and where to source them. With a stable staff and suppliers behind him, he has now turned to the menu, developing recipes and menus to match the incredible dining locations at Poronui.

Depending on the time of year and your length of stay at Poronui, you might find yourself enjoying a rustic open fire meal streamside at Safari Camp, fine dining in the atmospheric underground wine cellar, or a relaxing family style meal at the outdoor barbeque area or around the communal table in the Lodge. Steven’s vision is matching the recipes and ambience to the location. This could be as simple as the waiter wearing a denim apron at the outdoor barbeque, and pressed white linen in the Lodge. It could mean presenting the food on an eclectic mix of slate, wood and brass at Safari camp, or classic white porcelain in the wine cellar.

It also means when lamb season hits using the same cuts but with a different spin to fit the location. For example, a lamb shoulder can be slow cooked at Safari Camp, then charred on the open fire and smeared in a sticky Asian glaze and accompanied by a tossed radish and coriander salad. That same shoulder could be served as a confit in the wine cellar, with fennel and anise, thyme roasted château potatoes, elements of parsnip and a mint jus. And at the Lodge, it can be butterflied and rubbed with manuka honey and wholegrain mustard, and served with roasted seasonal root vegetables, minted potatoes and a mint sauce.

Steven works with Grant Petherick, Poronui’s sommelier, to match local wines to each dish.

Food is memory, and Steven is adding unforgettable dining options to the Poronui experience. With his empathy for the stunning variety of outdoor environments, and his passion for perfection and authenticity of flavour, we think Steven has captured the essence of Poronui in his menus. And given his love of the location and lifestyle in New Zealand, Steven will be part of the Poronui family for a long time to come. There’s no going backwards on the journey to the next level!

From the Tack Room

Picking the Winner. Finding the Right Horse.

Tracy Williams is our Equestrian Guide and returned to Poronui in March 2015 after a gap of 11 years. Career, travel and marriage had come between Tracy and her passion, and it wasn’t until Tracy and husband Pete returned to New Zealand that everything fell into place – Pete back farming and Tracy riding.

‘My first season at Poronui was back in 2003/2004 and left such an impression, it was hard not to return when the opportunity presented itself. To my delight I find Poronui now attracts experienced riders who really enjoy the well-schooled horses and challenging rides. With a stable of personality+ horses I have found my dream job ……’

A big part of that dream job is working with Assistant Lodge Manager Claire to select the team of horses at Poronui. Tracy and Claire base their choice of a suitable horse on a number of key factors: temperament, looks, sure footedness, riding comfort, willingness to learn and their own trusty gut instincts.

Being a riding stable it is preferable if each horse can cater for a range of ability of riders. Generally the decision on whether to buy a green youngster or an experienced "schoolmaster" horse depends on the rider. Novices tend to get a lot more enjoyment from a horse that already knows the ropes, whether trail riding, running barrels, learning to jump or doing a little elementary dressage. On the other hand, experienced equestrians will derive great satisfaction from schooling and teaching a green youngster. Winning that first ribbon in the first show is very pleasing when you’ve taught your horse everything it took to win that ribbon yourself!

As Tracy remembers her own show jumping days, “‘I never grew up wanting a pony. I have to admit I was more interested in race cars! Then my sister showed me how to jump and as they say, the rest is pretty much history.”

According to Tracy she had an unreasonable amount of confidence and a strong competitive streak. “Just over 12 months from my first jump I was, representing the Taupo region at the North Island Two Day Team Eventing Championship. In fact I represented Taupo at that same event for three consecutive years, before ‘retiring’ from Pony Club and taking up hunting.”

Trekking at Poronui has evolved into a riding stable with a small team of talented horses. The stable needs to cater for riders with a huge disparity in skill levels, from novice to highly experienced, which makes choosing the perfect team quite tricky. One key decision several years ago was to only select geldings – making life much less complicated! Another was to focus on Gisborne Station bred horses. These horses are not a specific breed but result from a breeding program crossing heavier breeds: Clydesdales, Percheron, Irish Draft with lighter breeds like Arabs and Thoroughbreds and the agility of a Quarter horse. They are very sort after for their size, stamina, temperament for show jumping and other disciplines. Poronui now has three of these beauties on the team. Tracy loves her boys, and the five current team members are all personality plus.


Born 2012 is a Gisborne Station bred. Texas is sweet natured, confident, with good manners but can be bossy in the paddock. He is very responsive, excellent to handle and willing to please. He is bomb proof for beginners but being a baby a more experienced rider tends to get the best out of him.

He is excellent with rope work and responds very well to being ridden bit less.


Born 2009, also a Gisborne Station bred. Tucker loves attention, is a real smooch. He is the Alpha male in the team. He schools nicely and jumps 1.10m very well with great style. He is a very smooth ride with a rocking horse canter. When we went to buy him the children were bouncing from the trampoline onto his back!


Born 2000 Shelby, a Standard Bred, is the old boy in the team. He is very trustworthy and a gentleman to handle. He is a joy to ride.


Born 2010, Cadbury is a San Mateo Clydie Cross TB Cadbury is a big baby at 17hh and very cuddly. He is schooling well on the flat and over fences. He loves to learn and is very responsive. Cadbury is a very comfortable ride over any terrain. He is a gentleman to handle.


Born 2009, Rocky is a Percheron/TB/QH. Rocky is very aptly named with his big neck and hindquarters – a real rocking horse. He is an easy ride, with very nice paces and a very comfortable canter. He is the newest to the team, is schooling very well and loves to jump. He squeals with delight when excited!

Poronui’s horses are currently out on grass for the winter months giving Tracy the opportunity for some well-deserved time off for travel. By mid-September they will all be back in work again going through their fitness program. If riding is your passion book a multi-day program with us, or if you simply want to give it a go Tracy will match you with the perfect ride!


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