My favourite table: Paul O'Halloran at Hummingbird
The food here is really good, but it's the service that keeps me coming back.
If I come here and feel like eating something and don't know what to have, they can give you little tastes of things.
They're so interested in you and you're well looked after. Sometimes we come here with four of us and share one plate.
I'm a big steak eater, so anything beef, I get into that. Even if you just come down for a few beers and just grab a side plate, it's ideal.
I'm a teacher at St Joseph's School in Upper Hutt. I teach year 7 and 8. I start back next week, but I'm spending time getting ready for the school year. It's my first job out of university. I've been teaching a year and a half.
I started part way through the year in 2011, and at the end of it I felt good, but by the end of my first full year last year I was shattered. The theory that we work nine to three really annoys. I'm at work at 7.30 in the morning, and don't go home till 6pm some nights.
I try and get out to eat as much as I can. It's the best way for me to socialise with my mates who aren't teachers. Teaching, you can get stuck only hanging out with teachers, talking about teaching.
How does a teacher afford to go out all the time? It pays to pick and choose your restaurants, really. Hummingbird would be one of those places I eat out at very little because it sets you back a bit. But you can go to other places up Cuba St and get a meal for $8. I love yum cha because you can have lots of people and eat for very little.
For lunch at work, a lot of the time I take leftovers but there were three of us at school who - you might call it a bad habit - would go out every day for lunch. We'd try out all the bakeries and different places in Upper Hutt for lunch. At one point we had a Monday ritual where we'd go to the pizza place around the corner where you can get really good wood-fired pizzas. We'd ring up before lunch and go down and eat it.
I love cooking, and I watch all the cooking shows. I'm a big fan of Top Chef and Masterchef, all those reality shows. I'm a reality show junkie. I absolutely love Gordon Ramsey, I think he livens it up. You can pick up little techniques from those shows.
For Christmas I got a pasta maker, so I'm learning to make pasta. I cook a lot of Chinese and Indian food, because curries are right up my alley. I try to make them hotter and hotter and see how hot I can make them before I can't eat them any more. You can't really do that in a restaurant because if it's too hot to eat, you're like, well, that's a waste of money.
I grew up in Hamilton, and I definitely learnt some cooking skills from my mother - my dad, too, because he's a big barbecuer. You can't really beat barbecued steak.
When I first got to university and my first flat, I knew how to cook basics like spaghetti bolognese and it just came down to, well, I've got to learn. I love Jamie Oliver, I love watching him. I think, "I can do that". If you can read you can follow his recipes.
Admittedly, I have cooked a few things from his 30 minutes show and it didn't take me half an hour, it took ages. But then I don't have the nice fancy tools and things that he has in his kitchen, but you can still get through a meal generally quickly.
My mother is a really good home cook. I had a German friend who used to be a chef and he came up to Hamilton one time. I told Mum that he was going to come for dinner, and when I told her he was a German chef she was freaking out and said she was going to cook schnitzel. But he said it's completely different being a chef to a home cook.
Nothing beats a home-cooked meal. The reason I keep going home is to get those home-cooked meals.
And now I can cook for my mum and show her all the time she spent on me wasn't wasted, me hanging around, licking the spoon.
AS TOLD TO KIMBERLEY ROTHWELL
Hummingbird Eatery & Bar, 22 Courtenay Place, Wellington. Ph: 04 8016336. Opening hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 3pm till late. Internet: hummingbird.net.nz.
The Dominion Post