MasterChef's advice for Jamie Oliver

JESSICA TASMAN-JONES
Last updated 05:00 21/02/2012
Jamie Oliver
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HEADING HERE? A scout has reportedly been looking for restaurant sites for Jamie Oliver in Auckland, Wellington and Queenstown.

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A Kiwi celebrity chef has warned Jamie Oliver it takes more than just clever cuisine to make it big here.

MasterChef judge Simon Gault says Auckland's restaurant market is saturated and Oliver would be smarter to set up shop elsewhere.

Oliver is reportedly scouting locations for his international chain, Jamie's Italian,  in Auckland, Wellington and Queenstown.

Rustic food, seasonal ingredients, freshly-made pasta and a selection of antipasto are promised in a style of dining described as high-volume and affordable.

Oliver would design all menus and be actively involved in the restaurants.

Gault, who owns Euro and Jervois Steak House, says Oliver's restaurant would enhance Auckland as a culinary destination but warned the market is flooded.

He says Auckland probably has more restaurants per capita than Manhattan, New York.

"I think there're too many restaurants in Auckland, and as much as I'd welcome him to Auckland, if I was him I'd be choosing another location because we don't have enough people."

Gault says he's presently considering restaurant opportunities in Queenstown.

In recent months new dining hotspots have sprung up at Wynyard Quarter, Britomart and Federal St, and operators elsewhere are feeling the pinch as people try the new venues.

Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois agrees Auckland's hospitality industry is hard to crack.

"We have seen an increase in the number of businesses opening as a direct result of the Rugby World Cup. So my question is can our industry sustain many more businesses."

But she believes Oliver's name and his healthy approach to dining would stand him in good stead.

"Every restaurant that really markets their head chef or has a personality behind their business is going to attract more people just because it's all about branding."

Bidois did not know where Oliver would open a restaurant if he chose Auckland as a location.

Oliver's restaurant will be operated by his Australasian licensee Pacific Restaurant Group, which opened the first Jamie's Italian Down Under in Sydney in October.

Director Wes Lambert said Oliver was keen to include New Zealand in the licence because he has a big following here for his books, TV shows and website.

Lambert said fine-dining is struggling around the world, mainly because of perceptions of value.

Oliver is expected to visit the Sydney Jamie's Italian for the first time next month.

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- Auckland Now

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