How the taste of childhood inspires Australasian culinary greats Joel Bickford and Gareth Stewart

As American Express Restaurant Month draws to a close, it's time to put down the menu and step into the kitchen. 

On Wednesday at waterside restaurant Euro, a melding of two great culinary minds drew eager Auckland diners in for A Taste of Aria. 

Joel Bickford of legendary Sydney restaurant Aria teamed up with Gareth Stewart of Auckland stalwart Euro, to celebrate a shared ethos with a five-course menu featuring the best of the sea and land.

Both Aria and Euro are considered to be at the top of their game, so you'd be forgiven for perhaps being a little intimidated to step inside if you're not a bonafide 'foodie'. But Bickford and Stewart say the nature of fine dining has changed. 

"I think there's a moving away from that... not so much the food, the food's still high quality, but there's just less work now," Bickford told Newshub.

"There are different techniques that don't basterdise the products; it's not just technique for the sake of technique.

"In some ways, it's like cooking got stale, and so chefs were looking for a way to challenge the diners. That only lasted a couple of years. Now, ultimately, people go out to dinner because they want nice food that's been treated well." 

Stewart, who worked in London before settling in Auckland, agrees. He says he doesn't have time for such trends as the 'molecular gastronomy' time of the mid-2000s. 

"I think with fine dining, the perception has changed," he says. "I think it's not always about the food anymore - it's about how it's delivered. Fine dining doesn't have to be white tablecloths and waiters done up in tuxedos, it's about the knowledge about the product you're putting in front of the guest.

"It doesn't have to all be nouvelle cuisine... it just has to be cooked well." 

Both chefs grew nostalgic reflecting on their own childhood food memories, despite two vastly different experiences. 

"I think being a chef is all about memory," Stewart observed. "Whether that's muscle memory or a sense of smell or taste or texture, it just triggers something pleasurable in the brain."

Stewart, whose mother was a keen home baker, said whenever he gets that whiff of pastry he's immediately transported to home. 

"It just send s you straight back to being a kid," he smiled. "My mum was an excellent cake maker and I grew up on beautiful cakes." 

Bickford, whose mother was certainly not a keen cook, still remembers the treasured desserts that were served with their daily meat and three veg. 

"I still remember that smell, when mum used to make little apple turnovers or whatever at home, that's what warms your heart. If I'm walking through the kitchen or whatever, it brings back memories to me," he said.

"It's nice to go to a restaurant [where] you can just have a cracking rice pudding or something really simple and humble but it leaves you walking out feeling much more satisfied." 

American Express restaurant month took place across the city for the month of August. You can find more upcoming events from heart of the city on the official website