Tony Astle brings the Chiwahwah: questions and answers with a culinary empire-builder

Christchurch hospitality kingpin Tony Astle already heads a culinary empire, but now he’s bringing the Chiwahwah to town. Metropol talks to him about raising the bar – both literally and figuratively.

Tony Astle

When does Chiwahwah open and can you describe the cuisine and vibe you’re creating?

We have only recently received our building consent so sometime in the next few weeks, hopefully June. The cuisine will be Mexican. As always, we will endeavour to provide the best of its type in town. The vibe will be fun, with street cool interiors not straying to far from the Mexican I have created in the past with a few surprises. There will be a private area.

What drew you to hospitality?

I loved cooking from a young age and it has evolved from there. It’s a hit to share something I have created with customers and see them enjoy it.

What are some of the key ingredients for a successful hospitality establishment?

Consistency. Anyone who has ever worked with me will have heard the ‘consistency’ word over and over! Whether it’s fish and chips, fine dining, Asian or Spanish, it has to be consistent. Obviously good service and environment come into play too. Music level, lighting and temperature are also critical. On the flip side, sometimes customers don’t respond and I have no reason why. Some of the best businesses I have created have closed their doors.

What are some of your favourite haunts or places to head out to in Christchurch?

I don’t go too far from my own establishments. I’m a creature of habit so don’t necessarily follow the newest or trendiest venues. Foo San is my favourite, followed by Rangoon Ruby. My wife and I prefer to share a lot of smaller dishes.

What do the next 12 months have in store for you?

I will strive to keep the businesses I have consistent. There is a tempting night club opportunity at the moment… I’ve always said I will finish my time in the industry back in the kitchen cooking, whether that time is here, I’m not sure. What I do know is I want to spend more time with my family.