Casey McDonald

To say that Casey is happiest in a kitchen is an understatement. He began his professional career at the age of 14, stuck behind a classic fish'n'chip shop fryer on the main street of Karori, Wellington. Undeterred by the relentlessness of juggling his studies with kitchen hand work - he knew he was going to forge a path in the culinary world.
After completing half a commerce degree, a shift in direction came and saw him finally study cooking at Massey university and then wash dishes at a small Wellington restaurant- Citron. This then changed in the form of his first role as a qualified chef, under the guidance of Rex Morgan of Citron. An iconic Wellington restaurant and true fixture on the New Zealand food scene for over a decade, this bright yellow terrace is where Casey spent the next three years, learning the workings of a high end kitchen, honing his technical skills and planning a move to San Francisco, in search of challenge and diversity.
Before too long, he found himself acclimatized to the Californian heat, having joined Restaurant Gary Danko, a Californian institute of fine dining with unique roots in its local community. Here, he discovered the importance of championing the best produce from around the world and understanding seasonality.
At the age of 25, he looked further afield, jumping on a plane to London, to find himself in the kitchen of The Square in Mayfair - arguably one of the city's most lauded restaurants, boasting two Michelin stars for an incredible fifteen consecutive years. Under the tutelage of Phil Howard, Casey refined his attention to detail, finesse, and creativity over a two-year period.
Armed with the influence of the last few years, Casey headed back south, landing in Melbourne just as the city began to cement itself as the culinary capital of Australia.
It was a simple, but perfectly executed, breakfast at Andrew McConnell's Cumulus Inc that resonated deeply. Seeking a relaxed, yet equally produce-driven and professional environment as the one he had just departed, Casey found himself at Andrew's flagship restaurant, Cutler & Co for two years, with the restaurant winning best in Australia.
Promoted to Head Chef of both Cumulus Inc and Cumulus Up, he stayed in this position for two years before his ability to inspire and innovate saw him overseeing all six of Andrew's kitchens including Cutler & Co, Supernormal and Cumulus. Wearing many hats daily, his seamless interpretation of the various dining styles across multiple venues were testament to his versatility, delivered with assurance and finesse.
Most recently, Casey has returned home to New Zealand to settle in Hawke's Bay, where within days he accepted the position as Head Chef and manager of Craggy Range Restaurant. Over the last four years, Casey has influenced the Hawke's Bay culinary scene, and with the recent opening of Mary's Restaurant has been able to promote and inspire his young proteges to dream big and forge a path like his.
The last decade's adventures have influenced Casey's signature style - from the uniquely warm hospitality, driven by his kitchen and front of house teams, to his desire to champion our region's unique spoils and the incredible people and families who produce them.