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Our Food Philosophy

Head Chef Felipe Ponce

Guests of Treetops Lodge & Estate experience a very personal encounter with our specialist wild food chefs and game keepers when they stay on this 2500 acre, year-round, lush wilderness estate. The philosophy of ‘Estate to Plate’ is showcased at every meal and snack at the lodge. Our commitment to serving estate reared and produced, 100% pesticide free, and organic, whenever possible, form the basis of our food philosophy. Every morning our chef sources vegetables from the estate garden and meets with our resident gamekeeper to select game ingredients for the day. By late morning he is at his desk crafting dishes to the preferred tastes of that night’s guests. The menus are contemporary, using simple techniques to bring out the clear, fresh flavours – but remember every season is different and so with the dishes.

Many guests experience our 4WD Estate safari which really highlights what we grow and rear at Treetops - Manuka honey aviaries producing wild native comb honey of exceptional flavour, wild deer: red, fallow, sika, wapiti (elk), and water buffalo, wild pig, lamb, rabbit, pheasant, partridge, geese, duck, plus rainbow and brown trout prepared for our anglers from our very own rivers on the estate. Seasonal vegetables grown at Treetops are a highlight; Perpetual Spinach, Florence Fennel, Kumara, Globe Artichokes, Wasabi Japonica, Native Cress, and an abundance of fruit trees. Guests are encouraged to try garden produce, respectfully picking what they wish to taste

Chilean-born, but raised on Easter Island, head chef Felipe Ponce, initially trained in South America and Spain where career highlights included working at El Cingle (One Michelin-Star restaurant) in Barcelona, Harbourside Ocean Bar Grill, Auckland and the multi-award winning Pacific Resort Hotel Group as Executive Chef in Rarotonga. Additionally, his accomplished resume embraces other successful restaurants in New Zealand and luxury hotels across Argentina, Spain, Guatemala, and Chile.

Felipe enjoys blending Pacific Rim and Latin American influences which complement the ‘Estate to Plate’ dining philosophy of the lodge. He imaginatively combines and beautifully presents exceptional and creative contemporary dining consistently to Treetops guests. Creating stunning dishes based on peak seasonal availability Felipe personally enjoys cooking and delivering exquisite experiences including edible flowers and indigenous herbs like horopito, pikopiko and kawakawa. His Polynesian background, his close relationship to Maori Culture (his wife and children have New Zealand Maori and Cook Island heritage) and his ultimate passion for making guests happy allows him to create dynamic and meaningful dishes.

“Summer at Treetops can be hot, and the evenings long, that is probably why our guests tend to do many more activities like fly-fishing and horse riding, with light food carried by them. In winter the days are short, and guests relax in front of the fire enjoying a glass of fine wine. Treetops in summer or winter feels so enticing, warm, exceptional, and it hums with an atmosphere of togetherness, restfulness, and spark of life . This is what keeps Treetops alive, keeps her dynamic and with a spirit to draw everyone to her. The ability to cook fresh reared estate meat and seasonal food in such a luxury estate with a natural and friendly environment has been enormous fun. It has given me such insight to create alongside other chefs to build a creative, originally honest and inspired cuisine at Treetops, which is based on our estate food philosophy” Head Chef Felipe Ponce

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