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Vibrancy in Ashburton: Formosa

Ashburton’s vibrant and delicious Asian Fusion restaurant Formosa is the brainchild of husband and wife team Chef Dondon Chen and Creative Designer Amber Huang.



With no business experience – but armed with enthusiasm, a lot of inspiration and a passion for food and culture, Formosa will celebrate its third year this November with a fabulous new summer menu and a gorgeous dessert display, while plans for high tea are well under way.

Lockdown saw Amber and Dondon introduce their delivery service which served many happy customers and ongoing additions to the dine-in and takeaway options.

The fitout includes an open kitchen so you can witness the creation of your food and engage with the friendly chefs while they are in action.

The restaurant has three roomy and uniquely themed spaces: The VIP Room, Chinese Lantern Area and the Red Parasol Area that are perfect for an intimate date night, a family lunch or even a company function for up to 120 guests.

With the success of Formosa and great feedback from customers over the years, a plan to open a branch in Christchurch is something the team is considering.

“Formosa Restaurant aims to always provide excellent quality food and services,” Amber says. “We are considering opening seven days, to make our delectable dishes and mouth-watering desserts available every single day of the week.”

Open Monday to Saturday, 11.30am to 2pm and 4.30pm to 8.30pm.

Phone 03-308 7874 or email to make a booking.


Nadia Lim gets vegeful

She is proudly an omnivore but Nadia Lim isn’t afraid to make veges the star of the show. We catch up with the culinary mastermind about how good old veges have given her a hit of inspiration in the kitchen.




You’ve just launched My Plant-based Bag, a limited-edition meal delivery kit packed with the best of New Zealand produce and plant-based proteins. What encouraged you to start a plant-based food bag and how has it been received?
It’s been amazingly received, and we’ve all been blown away by how popular it’s been so far. It’s totally a reflection of what more and more people want these days. People used to think vegan food was rabbit food, but now so many omnivores are impressed (and often surprised) by just how delicious vegan/vegetarian food can be.

Your latest cookbook Vegful has also just hit the shelves. How difficult is it creating recipes where veges play the starring role?
Not difficult at all! I absolutely loved writing my latest book, Vegful! Whenever I pick a beautiful glossy, plump, vibrant purple eggplant or a hoard of cheerful cherry tomatoes from the garden, I can’t help but be inspired. I love my veggies so much and have so much respect and awe for what nature creates – they deserve to be the stars of more meals on Kiwi dinner tables. And the delicious meals they turn into for my family just inspire me to create more and more.

What are some of your favourite veges and favourite plant-based meals?
Too many to choose from! I love my spuds, kumara, eggplant (often underrated), and pumpkin, and since I’ve just been to Italy and Greece, tomatoes (they are so full of flavour there!). As for favourite plant-based meals, hmmm…. well, I could eat my vegan tacos (with walnut almond chilli and guacamole), masala dosa, and burrito bowls any day, any time.

After turning your talented hand to vegetarian and even vegan meals, how surprised have you been at what you’re able to create without dairy, meat and eggs?
I did a one-week vegan challenge several years ago and I surprised myself (and my fourth-generation sheep farmer husband) with how easy and delicious being vegan was. Since then, I’ve always known that vegan food isn’t ‘lacking’ in any way (including flavour, satiety and ease). We’re both still omnivores, but we genuinely love delicious vegan meals done well.

How much more adventurous has this encouraged you to get in the kitchen?
Creating vegetarian and vegan recipes has actually given me an inspiration boost in the kitchen. I’d almost go as far as saying it has been liberating; once you start with vegetables as the star of your meal, it opens up a whole world of new varieties, flavours and techniques. So many delicious cuisines, like Middle Eastern and Indian, typically have loads of amazing vegetarian dishes so it’s encouraged more experimentation, like my masala dosa and Middle Eastern pita salad.

What are your go-to veges for spring?
Well, asparagus of course. Because it only makes a fleeting visit, so I go a bit crazy with it while it’s here. Lots of leafy greens (of all sorts) as you’re starting to crave lighter meals, and new spuds. Because, spuds… mmmm!

Families are increasingly making separate meals for the adults and the children. As a busy mum, what are your go-to family meals?
I love a good old spag bol, and it’s always a guaranteed winner with the kids. We also love the creamy tomato, mushroom & black bean shepherd’s pies and kumara, chickpea and mushroom burgers from Vegful.

What are some of your favourite ways to get veges into fussy toddlers?
Haha, ummm…. bribe them with ice-cream? I’m not going to lie, that’s what we often resort to. I don’t have any magic tips, sorry. Toddlers are fussy little food critics. I do hide veggies a lot in our meals, like in sauces (the Autumn Harvest sauce in Vegful is great for that). My veggie pops (also in Vegful), contain pineapple, cucumber and spinach, but my two young boys think they’re a treat for eating their veggies. Little do they know the joke is on them, ha!

What are some of your most versatile vegetables to work with?
I’ve just been ‘living’ in Italy for seven weeks, so eggplant, courgettes, capsicum and tomatoes are at the top of my mind. Also, green beans. All of them are super versatile vegetables. That was just about all the vegetables that were in the veggie garden (and there was no supermarket) so I had to get creative with them. But boy you can do a lot of different things with veggies – we would grill, BBQ, slow-roast, roast and blend, have in soup, stuff, steam and stir-fry them. I’d say they cook well anyway except for boiling.

How involved do you let Bodhi get in the vege garden and does this make him more engaged with the cooking and consuming of the food?
Yes, he is definitely more likely to eat or try something if it’s straight from the garden. Like green beans… he wouldn’t touch them if they’re on his plate but let him pick some young ones straight off the vine and he won’t share any with you.

What do the next 12 months have in store for you?
Probably lots more cooking and looking after kids. I’m also moving to Central Otago!


We have a Nadia Lim plant-based bag delivery and a copy of Nadia’s new book Vegful to give away to two very lucky readers! Just head to the Metropol Facebook page to enter.



Donna Hay: Simple made special

Donna Hay has always enjoyed cooking, with a grandma and mum who were happy to let her loose in the kitchen from a young age.



I am so incredibly fortunate to have been able to turn my childhood hobby into a lifelong career,” she says.

When we catch up it’s the eve of her new cookbook Week Light (published by HarperCollins) that has hit the street this month, and, even though there have been 27 bestselling cookbooks that have come before it, this one is particularly close to her heart.

She’s been serving as editor-in-chief for her bi-monthly publication Donna Hay Magazine, which closed in July 2018 after publishing 100 issues across 17 years, so it’s her first opportunity to get back to her core passion and let loose in the kitchen. “I’m really excited about this book,” she says.

“After closing the magazine it meant I got to write recipes for myself again and do all the styling. I’m getting back to what makes me happy. The book has been a bit of a personal journey, but it’s also a bit of where I think cooking is heading.”

Week Light offers a new, modern way of eating all the different types of veges, she says. “There’s meat thrown in there as well because I’m quite aware there are people who are into eating veges, but have teenage boys that are keen to eat meat,” she laughs.

So if you once had a phobia of steamed cabbage, this might just have the inspiration to cook it in exciting new ways.

It’s a different approach for the MasterChef generation. Rather than crafting elaborate recipes with a three-hour prep time, the common theme for Hay has always been writing recipes for the home cook. “So they’re simple to follow and made with things that are easily available from the supermarket – not just things you’ll only use once!”

“It’s a different approach; we all have limited time, we’re just juggling things like kids’ homework. People are always drawn to the styling as well. I want them to look at a book and their mouth starts to water, then they realise all the ingredients are right there and they can make that! All those hooks have made me fortunate enough to have a long career.”

When pressed for her foodie philosophy, it’s ‘simple made special’. “Which doesn’t mean simple things made difficult; it’s about simple foods made amazing!”

So how does a day in the life of Donna Hay look these days? “Not as many deadlines, that’s for sure,” she laughs.

“No two days are the same, which is great for me. I never have a day planned, which is how I’ve always been, but now I’m spending more time in the kitchen doing recipes – I love it!”

She’s about to head up a female chef series in Australia, so she’s been reflecting on dishes that have meant something special to her. There’s certainly been plenty to choose from, so does she pick favourites or are they all her babies? “It’s been a journey looking back at dishes that sparked something in my career,” she says.

“I remember a pasta I did early on; its name has even changed over the years to ‘Studio Pasta’ because I used to cook big bowls of it for the studio. It’s had different incarnations, but it’s simply pasta with red chillies, baby capers, lemon rind, garlic, rocket, cracked black pepper and parmesan.

“It has come up so many times in my career and it has meant so much along the way as well, so it’s going to keep going,” she laughs.

Talking of keeping on going, Hay is certainly doing that herself. She’s hitting New Zealand in the near future for ‘An Evening with Donna Hay’, where she will be taking attendees on a journey through the highs and lows of her hugely successful career.

She’s got the overseas launch of Week Light, which will see her traipsing across the globe from Germany to the Netherlands. Then she’s heading back to her homeland for the AO Chef Series at the Australian Open. There’s another book in the pipelines before a big festival in Bondi.

So you can expect to see this name a lot more in the future. But in the meantime, Week Light open on your bench will just have to do.




The Bespoke Chef

Bespoke Eats: The Bespoke Chef

Does the idea of having someone else do all the cooking and cleaning up for your next dinner party appeal to you?

The Bespoke Chef

Would you prefer to relax and have quality time with your friends and family instead of being stuck in the kitchen away from all the action? For many the answers would be a resounding ‘yes’.

So let The Bespoke Chef take the stress and hassle out of your next dinner or drinks party. Jacob McKerrow and his team of skilled chefs provide a private in-home catering service cooking creative and delicious restaurant-quality food with seasonal local ingredients. They bring innovation, passion and mouth-watering flavours to all their food – canapés, sharing platters or degustation dinners, tailoring their service around you. Just tell them what menu style best suits your requirements and let them do the rest while you simply enjoy yourself.


Phone 027 210 4404 or email


The International Culinary Studio

Work your culinary magic: How the The International Culinary Studio is helping people of all ages further their passion for cuisine

The International Culinary Studio is marching to the beat of its own delicious drum, no cliché concepts here! In fact, this revolutionary innovation – an online culinary school and chef courses – has been touted as a world first.

The International Culinary Studio

From helping aspiring chefs to chase their dreams and fulfil their potential by becoming qualified in the foodie field, to helping those with experience further enhance their skills, the learning model has been designed in recognition of the fast-paced lives people are leading and the need for flexibility when it comes to upskilling.
It seems age really is just a number when it comes to capability with the International Culinary Studio blessing even the little ones in our midst with some impressive culinary prowess thanks to its Mini Chef and Mini Baking Programmes.
Every busy parent’s dream, these comprehensive courses educate children on all of the fundamentals, with a generous dose of finesse and fun thrown into the mix. Five lessons at four hours each run across five days.
The Mini Chef Baking Programme starts with an introductory module incorporating dressing for the kitchen, personal hygiene and safe food handling, before baking some delicious biscuits. Swiss rolls, pavlova/meringues, chocolate mousse and almond tuille, and cakes/cupcakes are also on the menu.
The Mini Chef Cooking Programme begins with the same introductory module and lessons include learning how to make pasta, parmesan twists, dessert and even offers an industrial kitchen tour through the studio’s virtual kitchen.
For more information about what the International Culinary Studio can offer you and your family, visit