Cucina chef achieves dream

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Oamaru chef Pablo Tacchini reckons if you’re a chef and ┬ádon’t have the desire to own their own restaurant, they are in the wrong industry.
The Argentinian-born chef, together with wife Yanina, recently took ownership of Italian restaurant Cucina 1871 and neighbouring Tees St Cafe, on the corner of Tees and Itchen Sts, after they were approached by then-owners Lynn Stevens and Mary-Claire Anderson.
The restaurant opened in November 2013 and Mr Tacchini was executive chef for several months.
He came to Oamaru with his wife in 2008, after what was originally planned to be only a holiday in New Zealand.
Mrs Tacchini, who also works at the restaurant, said the couple, from Buenos Aires, had always talked about moving to Australia or New Zealand, but settled on the latter thanks to the number of jobs available for experienced chefs here.
Those opportunities, as well as Oamaru’s small-town appeal, were the major factors that led to the couple’s move here.
“Basically, we felt that it was a really good place to raise a family,” Mr Tacchini said.
He has worked as a chef at Northstar, Riverstone Kitchen and Fleur’s Place at Moeraki.
A couple of months ago, he spent time working alongside top chef Michael Meredith at Meredith’s, in Auckland, widely regarded as one of the finest restaurants in the country.
“I approached him and we got talking,” Mr Tacchini said.
“The whole idea was to go to a really good place and try to learn a few ideas and techniques and bring them to Oamaru.”
In Cucina 1871, to be renamed Cucina, the couple had realised a lifelong dream.
“We always thought one day, if we could own our own restaurant, it would be this one because we have always loved this corner.”
“I’ve always been a chef and it’s a natural progression. If you’re a chef and don’t want to own your own restaurant, you should change your profession.”
While it had been a stressful time, it was “really exciting”.
Mary-Claire Anderson said she had always hoped the Tacchinis would be willing to take over the restaurant.
“We always thought Pablo would like to have his own place and we had always wanted to give him the first opportunity to take this place over,” she said.
“It probably happened a bit sooner than we thought, but that’s the way it worked out.”
Mrs Stevens and Mrs Anderson still own the building, which they bought from the North Otago Club, and would be on hand to help Mr and Mrs Tacchini get settled.
As far as changes are concerned, along with dropping “1871” from the restaurant’s name, a new menu would be introduced from Friday and some of the decor will be changed.
The menu would not be strictly Italian, Mr Tacchini said.
“We’ll have a mix of cultures but we want to continue having things like our own hand-made pasta,” he said.