Top Christchurch Chefs join forces for good

Seven of Christchurch’s top chefs are donning their aprons, preparing to slice, dice and mix for a worthy cause.

“What do you call a group of chefs? We started calling ourselves a ‘gang’, but that didn’t sound quite right so we’re still brainstorming a name,” laughs Chef Darren Wright.

Darren, current Brand Ambassador Chef for Alliance Group and former owner of Chillingworth Road, is part of the group of culinary maestros who have joined forces to create Starry Night, a major fundraising event being held on 27 June. The event promises a degustation journey like no other, with the chefs working together to design five canape courses within the theme of light and dark.

Starry Night is being held in support of the Bone Marrow Cancer Trust. Funds raised will go towards the completion of Rānui Apartments. The 43-apartment complex, due to open in September this year, will provide a home-away-from-home for those travelling to Christchurch for often life-saving medical treatment. The Apartments, which are being constructed on Selwyn Street, is an expansion of the Trust’s current 26-apartment complex Rānui House.

“Every day we are turning away patients and families who are desperate for our support. Rānui Apartments can’t come soon enough,” says Mandy Kennedy, Bone Marrow Cancer Trust Chief Executive.

Joining Wright in the kitchen is Pink Lady Rooftop Bar and Hello Sunday Head Chef Andy Tranter, Christchurch Casino’s Richard Hingston and New Zealand Chef of the Year Rex Morgan. Andrew Brown, the former executive chef at The George who founded Burgers and Beers has also put his hand up to help, as well as top chef Phillip Kraal (who featured in New Zealand’s very own version of Ready, Steady, Cook).

“We’re really excited about this. Together we’ve created an offering that taps into all the senses – touch, taste, smell and sight,” says Wright.

“There are some creative minds in our group. It’s been awesome working together and bouncing ideas off one another. Our menu explores the themes of light and dark, but we don’t want to give away too much before the night – we’re keeping our lips pretty tightly sealed.”

Hingston, who has worked as Head Chef at the Christchurch Casino since 2011, says he joined the cause to “give back to community”.

“Every charity needs love and support, but when I heard about Rānui House and the support they provide to patients and their families I knew I needed to put my hand up.”

As an experienced pastry chef, Hingston has taken charge of the dessert offering. His advice to guests is “expect the unexpected”.

“It’s something a little bit different, and I’ve really enjoyed working with different flavour combinations to bring this experience to life.”

Over the past 31 years the team at Rānui House has supported thousands of patients and families of all ages and treatment types with accommodation and wrap-around support. But every day, it is forced to turn people away as the House is full.

In 2023, Rānui House turned away 664 patients and families, equating to 3,143 bed nights.

“This is just the unmet demand the Trust knows about. There will be many more times bookings were not requested as travel bookers knew Rānui House was full,” says Kennedy.

Kennedy says the inspiration behind Starry Night came from a family, who said Rānui House was like a “light in the darkness’ for them.

“It’s heartbreaking to turn people away in their time of need.  We can’t wait to open the doors at Rānui Apartments to ensure we can be the light in the darkness for more patients and families in need,” she says.

“We’re forever grateful to the chefs to have volunteered their time, taking our idea, building on it and bringing it to life.”

Rānui Apartments is due to open in September. The Apartments will provide another 15,695 bed nights annually for patients and families travelling to Christchurch for medical treatment. All funds raised at Starry Night will go towards the completion of the Apartments.