See inside celebrity chef Al Brown's outdoor kitchen video

NZ House & Garden

Chef Al Brown gives NZ House & Garden editor, Sally Duggan a tour of his outdoor kitchen.

When well-known chef Al Brown and his family moved to Auckland from Wellington almost two years ago, they were unconcerned about the poky kitchen in the Ellerslie villa they eventually bought.

"Here in Auckland, you can cook outside six months of the year," enthuses Al. "I love fire; I'm a solid fuel fan." 

So the rotten back deck and the area around it were first on the renovation hit list. Working with builder Carl Lund, who had a hand in crafting the interiors at Depot, Federal Delicatessen and Best Ugly Bagels, Al and his wife Lizzy drew up plans for a generous outdoor kitchen and entertaining space that steps down from the house.

Chef Al Brown’s outdoor kitchen in Ellerslie is a working kitchen six months of the year.
Jane Ussher

Chef Al Brown’s outdoor kitchen in Ellerslie is a working kitchen six months of the year.

"We love that '70s feel of a sunken lounge," he says.

A fireplace with a tall flue painted red is now the focal point of this zone, which overlooks a pool. The fireplace arrived in kitset form from Tauranga and took the team one day to put together. 

"I used to like pizza ovens," says Al, "but they're not great for impromptu events and don't provide much ambience."

The Flare fireplace is by Gibraltar Built in Tauranga. The angular, deco-style sofa and armchairs were custom-made by ...
Jane Ussher

The Flare fireplace is by Gibraltar Built in Tauranga. The angular, deco-style sofa and armchairs were custom-made by Lund building contractors.

This set-up does double duty for cooking on a grill above burning embers or on a teppanyaki plate set into a bench alongside: "Great for making fritters and scallops – delicate pass-around food – but also cheese toasties for kids playing in the pool."

Al uses the masonry fireplace for cooking whole beef fillets, the well-seasoned wood infusing them with smoky flavour. His three key components for functionality in this alfresco domain are: copious bench space, running water and something to wash up in. "I found the old wash tub in an inorganic collection." 

The rest of the area captures the bespoke-casual look Al has become known for. "I love original, not bought off the shelf. Finding ideas and scouring recycle yards is part of the process."    

NZ House & Garden's kitchen special is on sale now.
NZ House & Garden

NZ House & Garden's kitchen special is on sale now.

Case in point, the low-rider settee and armchairs that "Lundy" the builder knocked together. Al borrowed the idea from a barber's shop in Hobart, where they'd stripped back an art deco sofa to its timber skeleton to use as seating.  

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Next Al asked Andy Missen of Nidus to work his magic on the "high and ugly" pool fence. The railing top has been transformed into an alfresco bar, where handmade stools are the ideal late-afternoon spot to perch. The fence palings are a decorative welded design in steel, made to resemble twigs.

With the essential elements in place, the main kitchen has moved outdoors and summers are spent dining beneath the sun and stars on quick quesadillas or slow-cooked marinated legs of lamb. With so many delicious aromas floating over the back fence, we only hope Al invites the neighbours. 

Has this story made you feel peckish? Check out Al's recipe for Tandoori chops with eggplant sambal here

This article appears in the March issue of NZ House & Garden. For more like this, subscribe at mags4gifts.co.nz

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 - NZ House & Garden

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