As Northside readers and North Harbour Club people will know, Lexus of North Shore are great supporters of the club and have been for many years. During 2017, Lexus of North Shore have engaged leading restauranteur and celebrity chef Ben Bayly as their Lexus ambassador. As well as being a judge on My Kitchen Rules, Ben is executive chef at The Grove and Baduzzi restaurants in central Auckland and has also established 'The Grounds' in West Auckland. He also has extensive experience in senior chef roles at Michelin starred restaurants in London and France, having worked extensively overseas. Ben has attended 2017 North Harbour Club Lexus of North Shore Charity Lunches as a guest and is being lined up to host a lunch for the club in 2018, which should prove very entertaining. Northside’s Aidan Bennett was despatched to The Grove to meet and find out more about Ben Bayly.
First of all I must admit I am not a watcher of celebrity food shows on television so didn’t really know too much about Ben Bayly prior to meeting him. My wife Michelle and two daughters knew all about him though and were excited for me. Star struck on my behalf. Having dined there previously I did know that The Grove is one of New Zealand’s leading restaurants. My instructions from Lexus of North Shore’s CEO Mark Jago was “go and have a chat with Ben, you’ll really enjoy it”. So off I went.
It was 11am on a Wednesday when I walked in to meet Ben Bayly at The Grove restaurant located in St Patrick's Square in the city. There were no punters in the restaurant but as I walked in I could hear clear orders being given during preparation in the kitchen. Quite loud like Gordon Ramsay, but much nicer. I’ve since read he can be loud and he admits to swearing, but never at people. I certainly felt like I was in an award-winning restaurant where no stone was being left unturned during ‘prep’ time.
Due to the work going on I was expecting to be kept waiting by my celebrity chef I was about to meet. But that wasn’t the case. Just seconds flew by and out came Ben Bayly with a warm welcome and the offer of a coffee. I decided I liked him immediately and we sat down and chatted for 45 minutes. During that time deliveries were made to the restaurant and he greeted each of the delivers in the same friendly manner.
Ben Bayly has been in the restaurant game all his working life. The 37 year-old from Te Awamutu started out aged 16. He’s been at The Grove for over eight years, Baduzzi for four years and launched The Grounds just over a year ago. It’s clear he’s a strong leader and loves nurturing young talent for the industry he's passionate about.
“I get a kick out of the fact that eight or nine chefs who have worked for me have gone on to open their own restaurants,” explained Ben. “I love playing a part in developing leaders and seeing these people succeed.”
What warmed my heart is that there were chefs in his kitchen that travel over from the north side of the bridge to work. He’s breeding leaders for the Shore and hopefully future local restauranteurs!
The relationship with Lexus of North Shore has quickly become a strong one that Ben is thrilled with.
“Mark and David from Lexus of North Shore happened to be dining at The Grounds and I served them and we really connected. I could tell they are salt of the earth people and our philosophies really aligned around customer service, quality and providing a premium product. Cars don’t come much better than a Lexus. We quickly gained mutual respect and the relationship has been fun.
“The Lexus RX350 has become my travelling office. I love being a Lexus Ambassador and having the opportunity to drive vehicles such as the Lexus LC500. It is truly a supercar without the supercar price! Lexus is a premium brand that I am more than happy to be aligned with and I enjoy voicing radio adverts and attending events to promote the vehicles and the Lexus of North Shore business that delivers them.”
Ben Bayly is big on family. He and his wife Cara and their three young children - aged three, six and eight – live on land in ‘rural Titirangi’ where they have built a new house that includes a test kitchen.
“We love living in the countryside, it is a great way for the kids to be brought up and go to school near the ocean and the Waitakere ranges. I enjoy building so have really enjoyed playing a part in the new house and have built a glasshouse from doors. I also love gardening. We try to keep our lives as simple as possible.”
It is clear that many of these things have played a part in his latest venture, The Grounds modern family restaurant. This is a new concept he has created with fellow west Aucklander Mike Shatura. Their seasonal menus have a distinctly local flavour, with most of the produce being sourced from Waitakere suppliers to create meals that feel like home - but taste like the work of two leading chefs. They have a beautiful location on five acres bordering the Waitakeres.
For a guy that likes to do things simply, 2018 is shaping up to be a busy year. As well as playing a part in running the three eateries, Ben has three cookbooks on the go and is involved in two TV shows. One of these is a show aimed at getting kids interested in cooking. Parts of the second TV show involves filming in New York.
Most important though in 2018 will be the Ben Bayly-hosted North Harbour Club Lexus of North Shore Charity Lunch during the middle of 2018. That will be something special for North Harbour Club members and their guests. Having met Ben Bayly I can tell you it will be very entertaining and an event you won’t want to miss.
This really does seem like a great fit – Lexus of North Shore and Ben Bayly. Both dishing up excellent service and a superb product!
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