Tom Hishon & Josh Helm | Beekeepers, chef & sommelier/maitre d

Auckland City | February 2016

"Everything we do is about purity, and simplicity and respect for the food"... more text below images

Tom Hishon & Josh Helm Beekeepers, chef & sommelier/maitre d | Auckland City | February 2016

They may be located on Auckland’s Ponsonby Road, however their roots are in Invercargill by way of London.

Having completed his chef’s training at Southland Polytech in 2004 Tom set off to gain experience cooking in kitchens around the world. In 2008 he met Josh in London whose passion for wine had created a similar curiosity to gain as much experience as possible in vineyards outside of New Zealand.

As flat mates in London and away from home, they regularly created “cook ups” for friends and fellow travelers affectionately coined “orphan’s kitchen”. There the ethos for their restaurant was born: simple food of the highest quality shared with good friends and wine in a casual environment.

Once they arrived back to NZ from their extended travels they finally found the courage to open up their own restaurant.  Most of the advice they were given was that they were mad to start up a restaurant.  Josh says, ‘’Looking back on it, I can understand where they were coming from. Our family and friends helped us paint, build our tables and give us advice along the way’’, and Orphans Kitchen at 118 Ponsonby Road opened its doors in 2013.

Tom says, “Everything we do is about purity. To work simply and respect the food. We spend a huge amount of time sourcing all our food. We know exactly where each ingredient we serve to our customers has come from. It’s really important as a chef, for me and my team to see the produce as much as possible from seed through to the plate. We only source local NZ products. We bake our bread ourselves from wheat grown in a biodynamic farm in North Canterbury. We have a veg plot at Kelmarna Community Gardens, and we are looking to establish more gardening plots locally. Ultimately we want to be growing all our own produce.”

“We started beekeeping two years ago. Certain dishes we serve (especially our morning crumpets) have established a keen following, and it’s very satisfying to be able to serve our own honey with these dishes. Our sheep milk haloumi, honeycomb, pine nut, marrow with a burnt onion jus is also pretty popular.

I’ve been working on a fermented honey dish, with butternut and bergamot for our March menu where we will be begin a month long exploration into the world of plants.

 We will be preparing and plating vegetables with the same level of dignity that is often bestowed on a prime cut of meat.  Giving plants our undivided attention will no doubt expose new flavours and processes along the way.  Of course the social and sustainable significance of how we eat hasn’t escaped us either.  We hope diners will be inspired to elevate the vegetable in their cooking at home too.’’

“Marcello from Natural Habitats got us started on bee keeping. Unfortunately we lost our first harvest to American foul brood. However this year the bees are very happy, there’s about 100,000 of them and we have sweet abundant honey.’’

“We try to stay true to our roots. We really nurse the culture here. We do a staff dinner every day, where we all sit down together. We also make a point of going out together as a team once or twice a year. We haven’t quite extended the bee keeping responsibilities beyond Josh and myself as yet, but I can see a day where part of the duties of the team will be harvesting honey along with our own home grown produce.”


POD thanks photographer Lottie Hedley.