The Kiwi chef is 2010’s New Zealander of the Year in the UK and draws on her heritage for the food at her London restaurant.

Congratulations on being named New Zealander of the Year in the UK.

Thank you! Obviously it’s a major honour. And this might sound a bit strange, but it’s flattering to know that people are actually paying attention to what I’m doing in my daily life to promote New Zealand.

How do you do that at your award-winning restaurant The Modern Pantry?

We do have quite a few Kiwi items on the menu: there’s always tamarillos, we make hokey pokey ice cream, we have Manuka honey, Vegemite, all that kind of stuff. But it’s also in the way we approach food, which is quite Kiwi and eclectic. And, although I don’t necessary cook like people do in New Zealand, it’s that same attitude I think we have at The Modern Pantry.

You’ve also been selected as one of the 100 best talents by arguably the world’s 10 best chefs in culinary yearbook Coco. That’s massive.

I know – completely unbelievable! Well, no, it’s perfectly believable [laughs], but again, it was too much. I mean what a thing to be a part of. It’s been a good year so far.

You were born in Canada, but grew up in New Zealand. You also have Danish ancestry. How much has this influenced your cooking?

I was eating pickled herrings and braised red cabbage throughout childhood, as well as all the other delights of New Zealand, so I had quite a broad spectrum of foods to draw on. And I’m a big lover of pork, thanks to my Danish ancestry.

You were on BBC’s Saturday Kitchen. Is the food they cook actually edible or is it just for show?

I know it doesn’t actually look like it, but yeah, it’s all done live. But I did wonder that myself. You cook the food live and the guests are all there, and it wouldn’t be nice of them to say it was awful, but they can be quite frank, actually.

Do you have aspirations to front your own cookery show on the telly?

Not really. As much fun as it is, I’ve never really pegged myself as a TV celebrity and quite frankly, my life is busy enough.

There’s only really a handful of women who run and cook in their own restaurant kitchens, even in London.

I know. I’ve been really fortunate because I’ve never worked in a place where I’ve felt at a disadvantage for being a woman. I’ve thrived in a nurturing, encouraging environment, and that’s what we have at The Modern Pantry.

Is it more difficult for women to get ahead in professional cooking?

I don’t know if it’s harder for women. It’s just a hard job, period. You work long hours, you’re forever burning yourself and that’s off-putting for a lot of people.

So what’s it like in The Modern Pantry kitchen?

It’s pretty calm, we have a lot of fun. It’s not the sort of kitchen where you come in and you’re not allowed to speak until you go on your break. We have a lot of ladies, which is nice. Some nights actually, it’s all girls in the kitchen, which is great.

Really! Did you set out to make that happen?

It’s evolved that way, but it’s always been something that I’ve wanted to happen. We’ve got a team of 10 at the moment, and four of them are ladies. So it’s good.

» The Modern Pantry, St John’s Sq, EC1V 4JJ (020 7553 9210)