Dishing it up at Prof’s

Feb 26th, 2018 | By | Category: Country Cooking, Local Characters, News

Kate Wilson


In this new column, Number 8 Network invites local chefs and café owners to share some of their secrets, as well as one very special recipe. Kate Wilson from Prof’s@Woodlands gets us started.

  • Platter ChatterWe have a copy of Kate’s book Platter Chatter to give away – to enter email number8network  and tell us the name of Kate’s husband.  (Nb: This has now been won, many thanks to all who entered!)


What is your position and what are your jobs?
Officially co-owner with Allan my husband, focussing on front of house, bookings, PR and admin, plus quality control, aka taster of anything going!

Tell us a bit about Prof’s.
It is part of the Woodlands Estate, and originally the building was the Te Rapa bowling pavilion, which was transplanted in the 1990s. It has grown from a basic café to a destination café/restaurant and bar. Plus being adjacent a cricket oval, it now hosts many corporate, community and private events.

Describe the cuisine, are there any specialties?
We serve classic café fare, all cooked in-house, augmented with international cuisine. We are very aware of dietary challenges/preferences including gluten free and vegan. Our focus is to create enjoyable delicious cuisine and then make it accessible to most. Our home-made ice cream is gaining in reputation, along with our condiments which we also retail.

How long have you been involved?
Exactly two years on Thursday! Our anniversary is March 1 2016.  (Happy birthday Prof’s!)

Where were you before this, and what is your background?
Allan was an electronics and software development engineer. I was managing partner of James & Wells and still am a patent attorney and IP strategist. Both of us have science backgrounds (multiple degrees in physics & chemistry) and apply scientific thought to cooking techniques. Allan’s from the Wairarapa and I’m a third generation Hamiltonian.
With being passionate foodies and our children leaving home, we thought that this could be the opportunity to follow a joint passion together and enter the food industry.

What training, interests, particular culinary talents do you have? (Feel free to share interesting non-culinary ones too!)
Years of studying and practicing everything relating to food! Growing food came from living on a lifestyle block and we have had, on and off, an extensive orchard, vege and herb gardens, chickens and quail.
Cooking came from being so poor that we had to work out what to do with meat from an experimental abattoir we got from when working as technicians at Ruakura. Then the science kicks in with us experimenting with various techniques including molecular gastronomy, sous vide, smoking gun, curing, distillation – and the list goes on…
I have advised the food industry on patents and other intellectual property matters. As a consequence, I’ve written a number of food/science-based articles for Nourish magazine, including the Platter Chatter cook book, appeared on MasterChef, and been a food judge.
Non-culinary interests include art exhibiting and (surprisingly) selling paintings, all forms of technology, horticulture, music and in Allan’s case fixing/solving any physical problem plus designing steampunk furnishings.

Tell us one absolute glorious highlight from work.
Our first major night function. The music was pumping, the bar humming and the crowd buzzing. The energy level was so high that it took until 3am for us to settle down and go to bed afterwards.
Need to note the ongoing highlights of hearing happy birthday songs, family speeches and watching families interact and play together.

The Wilsons

Team Wilson – Son Ben, left, and Kate and Allan.

What kind of food do you love?
Flavourful, textural and makes you wriggle with delight. As an example, raw Bluff oysters with shallots and white balsamic vinegar requires no cooking but is sublime. We have been lucky enough to have travelled and experienced many cuisines, plus have enjoyed eating in all environs from beaches and street markets to Michelin star restaurants. We love food that teases all the senses.

What is a top cooking tip or rule your mother/tutor/best friend taught you?
I’m largely self-taught (sorry mum). Big private lesson (not professional) is to create the right expectations and realise that food alone is not the whole experience. As in, if you have a failure, you can re-purpose or re-name it.
Ugly can be called rustic, burnt is charred and not set is saucy. And if you have the right environment – good friends, enjoyable ambience, funky crockery, sharing meals – then ‘deficiencies’ in execution can be overlooked.

Pretty please share one cooking disaster at home, just so us mere mortals feel better about our efforts.
There are so many as we are always experimenting! An early one was an apricot mousse we were taking to a dinner party. It didn’t set, so we called it apricot cream. Everyone loved it and we learnt the above lesson as a consequence.

Who cooks at home and what is cooked?
Allan and I equally. We cook absolutely everything! Sometimes we are driven by trying something new, or refining a technique for work. Often we choose a cuisine, say Jamaican, and find ingredients to match or vice versa.

Tell me about the recipe you’ve supplied and why it’s special.
Chilli Garlic Prawns is in my Platter Chatter cookbook. It needs very few ingredients and works best with large tail-on prawns. We use these as an ice-breaker at BBQs and hand around bowls of them before the main event. Forces everyone to be sociable as sharing, plus the flavour and texture makes you smile.

Chilli prawns


Probably the best barbeque recipe ever, says Kate.

500g large raw prawns
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp minced chilli (according to taste)
3 Tbsp olive oil
Soy sauce

  • Put all the ingredients except the soy sauce in a bowl.
  • Pour in enough soy sauce so the prawns can slosh around
  • Leave in a fridge for 15 minutes or more
  • Barbeque – either individually on a hot plate or on skewers


Prof’s at Woodlands is on the Woodlands Estate, 42 Whitikahu Road, Gordonton. Open Monday to Thursday 9am to 3.30pm, Friday 9am to 9pm, Saturday, Sunday 9am to 4pm. Phone 027 4690694.  Click here for the website.

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