Chef profile: Casey McDonald
Casey's first role as a qualified chef in Wellington was under the tutelage of Rex Morgan at Citron - an iconic fine dining restaurant with only 30 seats, it was a fixture on the Wellington food scene for many years. Casey spent three years in the kitchen as a junior chef, learning the workings of a high-end kitchen and honing his technical skills. With a yearning for a more diverse food scene and a move overseas, Casey moved to San Francisco and joined Restaurant Gary Danko, a classic and refined French bistro with a distinctly Californian flavour. The acclaimed restaurant harnesses the exceptional produce of the region, and is still going strong after seventeen years.
At 25, Casey wanted to explore another restaurant landscape and moved to London. He quickly found himself in the kitchen of The Square in Mayfair, one of London’s most lauded restaurants, boasting two Michelin stars for fifteen consecutive years. Head Chef Phillip Howard was previously Head Chef at Marco Pierre White’s Harvey’s, when it was the recipient of three Michelin stars.
Next on the culinary world map for Casey was Melbourne. After arriving at Melbourne airport, he headed straight for lunch at Cumulus Inc., suitcase in hand. The dining style within Andrew McConnell’s restaurants was one that resonated deeply. Seeking a more relaxed yet equally produce driven and professional environment, Casey had an interview with Cutler & Co.’s Head Chef. He worked at Andrew’s flagship restaurant for two years as a Chef de Partie, and one year as Sous Chef, embracing unusual ingredients, simple flavours and the relaxed elegance of the restaurant.
Casey moved to Andrew’s Flinders Lane wine bar Cumulus Up., where he resided as Head Chef for 6 months, before overseeing the kitchens at both Cumulus Up. and Cumulus Inc. An inspiring leader and skilled chef, Casey oversaw 6 kitchens, including the teams at Cutler & Co, Cumulus and Supernormal, where he inspired his chefs with his creativity, skill, and seamless interpretation of dining style, delivered with assurance and finesse.
Most recently, Casey moved back home to New Zealand, taking on the role of Head Chef at Craggy Range Restaurant, and brings with him a focus on local Hawke's Bay suppliers, forests, coastline and the kitchen garden. His first weeks on the job were spent exploring all parts of the Bay, developing relationships with farmers and suppliers along the way, with a purpose to feature them on his menus.