Al grew up on a farm in rural New Zealand. Besides great home baking and wonderful preserving, there was a lot of grey meat and wizened vegetables. In hindsight, it was a bit of a culinary wasteland. He was always interested in cooking though, and after a very short stint as a shepherd, he decided to pursue food as a career. After completing his Culinary Arts Degree at the New England Culinary Institute in the USA, he cooked in restaurants across North America, Europe and New Zealand.
In 1996, Al and Steve Logan opened the award-winning Logan Brown in Wellington, New Zealand. Al was there for 12 years before heading north to Auckland to open Depot Eatery & Oyster Bar – his take on the Kiwi bach, and a big step away from his fine dining past. Depot was an unprecedented success and Al has followed up with Federal Delicatessen, modelled on the old-school Jewish Delicatessens and Best Ugly Bagels, his Montreal-style bagel factories.
Al loves to fish and spent his childhood holidays at Castlepoint beach in the Wairarapa. His love of seafood inspired his first book, Go Fish: Recipes and Stories from the New Zealand Coast. Go Fish won both People’s Choice and Best Illustrated Book at the 2010 New Zealand Post Book Awards, and Best Single Subject at the International Association of Culinary Professionals Awards in the USA. Al’s next book, Stoked: Cooking with Fire, the follow up to Go Fish, focuses on BBQ, meat cookery and our love of cooking over wood fires. His latest title, Depot: Biography of a Restaurant, was released in October 2014.
His passion for the outdoors and regional produce led to his first TV presenting gig, Hunger for the Wild. Since then he’s presented Get Fresh with Al Brown (and written a book of the same name), Dishing Up Australia, and Coasters.
He loves to promote New Zealand and its food to the rest of the world and he’s been a culinary ambassador for New Zealand Trade & Enterprise since 2003. In 2012 he was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services as a chef. In 2016, Al became an Ambassador for Garden To Table, a programme that aims to change the way children approach and think about food by getting their hands dirty and learning how to grow, harvest, prepare and share fresh, seasonal food.
Al spends his time outside of work with his wife Lizzie and two girls, Alice and Connie, walking his dogs, and fishing from his ‘new’ old boat, Nautilus.