NZ chefs take the cake

Press Release – Aoraki Polytechnic

NZ chefs take the cake – with a good old pork in the ribs for Aust
NZ chefs take the cake – with a good old pork in the ribs for Aust

They both had something to prove in the first ever culinary match-up between two proud sporting nations.

And it was never going to be a hog-tie.

One was destined to be a suckling – the other? Well, they would pig out on the spoils of culinary supremacy.

And so when the first trans-Tasman cook-off between the best association chefs in New Zealand and the best in Australia was staged at the ASB centre in Auckland last week (eds: June 14 and 15), off the teams trotted into their corners both armed with a pig and a huge point to prove.

Close though it was, the crackling crumbled New Zealand’s way, leaving the Australian chefs pondering their continuing run of bad luck in international contests and the home team captain, Aoraki Polytechnic’s head of Hotel School Steve Le Corre, bringing home the bacon.

Mr Le Corre, the leader of the New Zealand cooking team over many years and in many international competitions, said the first-ever challenge to determine culinary supremacy between New Zealand and Australia Chefs Associations was a fun event that saw the New Zealand team win by just 1.6 points out of a hundred.

Entitled the Gourmet Pacific Challenge, it was held at the recent Fine Food New Zealand Show in Auckland.

“As with all trans-Tasman challenges, there was a fair bit of stick, jibes and good-natured rivalry in the kitchens,” he said.

“The Australians had finished just ahead of us in an international cooking championship in Singapore in April, so it was good to get one back on them.”

The Gourmet Pacific Challenge will now be held every year alternating between Australia and New Zealand venues. The next contest will be held in Perth.

Competition organiser, NZCA vice-president Gary Miller, said the event was unique because of the particular sporting rivalry between the two countries.

“In all the years of international cooking, the respective teams had never gone head-to-head and the Fine Food New Zealand show was an ideal opportunity to make this happen.”

“The senior national teams have enjoyed a great friendship and rivalry on the international stage over many years and this event was a great opportunity to demonstrate to the industry and public of New Zealand the intensity involved in competing at this level,” Mr Miller said.

The “Battle of the Tasman” was no easy task, Mr Le Corre said.

Each team had five hours to prepare and cook a four-course meal for 70 people – “but what was unique was we both had to produce our main courses from a whole pig provided by the Waitaki Bacon and Ham Company”.

“Fortunately we had a day prior to the competition to break the pig down into its primal and sub-primal joints, but unlike other international culinary competitions, we were not allowed any pre-prepared food items, everything had to be produced within the competition arena,” Mr Le Corre said.

“Our entree dish had to feature salmon so we did a little crab tart with slow poached salmon in oil and some sweet and sour vegetables with smoked salmon as well.

“For dessert we could do anything we liked,” he said.

Mr Le Corre’s team featured chefs from throughout the country including Christchurch, Hawkes Bay and Auckland. The judging panel consisted of two chefs from Australia and two from New Zealand.

Aoraki Polytechnic’s head cooking tutor sees value in such events, especially for cooking students who have something to aspire to.

“New Zealand chefs tend to think they are missing out here; that there is more happening in Europe.

“But contests like these highlight the fact that we are not a bad nation of chefs and culinarians over here,” Mr Le Corre said.

“The whole thing about competitions is that they inspire our students and hopefully they will get involved in contests too.”

The Auckland contest also featured a cook-off between two youth teams of four young professional chefs from each country who competed for honours and medals.

Eventually it was New Zealand Team two that came out on top, lead by Sarah Primrose from The Pear Tree Restaurant in Kerikeri.


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