WILDFOOD'S FESTIVAL 2004
& COOKING ARTICLE
on in a strange new world . . . . .
nowhere maybe stranger than at Hokitika on New Zealand's
West Coast; on the second weekend of every March, the
Hokitika Wildfood's Festival is on again.
amongst all the wild and wonderful foods, amongst all
the madness and the mayhem there is a corner of sanity,
there is some sanctuary. I talk of course of the New
Zealand Wildfoods Festival Chef of the Year competition.
you can sit in much needed shade, relax and watch as
nine of the country's top chefs compete for the prestigious
title. The ingredients may be wild, but these chef's
prepare and present it with such love and devotion that
one is forgiven for forgetting that the dishes contain
some very unusual foods. There was no end of volunteers
to try these astounding dishes either, and they were
from all walks of life - the young, the old, Kiwis and
overseas guests alike.
how hotly it was contested, was reflected by the chef's
themselves; taking a weekend out of their own busy kitchens
they came from the length and breath of the country,
flying in from the Bay of Islands, driving overnight
from Palmerston North, such was the enthusiasm of the
chef's. The entrants read like a who's who of NZ's great
Bay of Islands
Grande St Moritz Hotel
had one hour to prepare, cook and present four portions
of a dish created themselves, from ingredients chosen
and in some cases, hunted, dived or gathered themselves
- such is a chef's dedication to using the best and
freshest ingredients some times. So with the steel of
their knives flashing, hands chopping, slicing and dicing
faster than seems safely possible these chefs went to
work under the watchful eye of not just the judges but
also several hundred members of the viewing public.
This year the audience even managed to get close up
and personal with the introduction this year for the
first time of a large projection screen, to watch even
the smallest of details and techniques on.
this year's event was a face known to most of the country,
guest judge Gregg Heffernan of Taupo along with Chef
Tutor Jos Wellman of Tai Poutini Polytechnic. Judging
to accepted international standards, it was not just
about how the final dish finally looked and tasted.
The chefs were marked on areas such as professional
practices, techniques used, degree of cooking, creativity
and overall balance of the dish.
for a second year of judging, Chef Greg Heffernan said
"The level of competition this year was even higher
than 2003, with a myriad of ingredients being used and
prepared to a standard as high as I have seen anywhere
in the world. They represented not only themselves and
their restaurants highly, but at this internationally
known event, they did New Zealand proud too". Chef
Greg went on, "the judging was tight, with only
a matter of points separating the overall winner from
the other top competitors"
the points were tallied from both the judges marking
sheets, the overall winner was:
Christine Nichelson representing the Mecure Hotel,
St Moritz in Queenstown.
is the second year in a row this establishment has
taken the title, with their sous chef winning last
highly placed in the marking and joint runners up were:
here with guest judge Chef Greg Heffernan is Chef Christine.
Christine's winning dish comprised of:
of wild boar fillet bound with crépinette, filled
with rosehip relish and Gibbston Valley brinza cheese,
nestled on a salad of watercress and apple, served with
a pikopiko speckled tart filled with kumara and wild
spinach mousse, accompanied by a jus and broomflower
wine and saffron reduction
her written dish description, (required as part of
the competition) Christine went on to explain her
choices for her dish:
dish is inspired by a journey through New Zealand's
South Island to source the wild ingredients. The journey
began in Nelson for kumara and continued east to the
Kaikoura ranges where the best wild boar in New Zealand
is hunted. We then travel to South Canterbury to pick
up the last of the season's wild blackcurrants. Via
Burkes Pass and the Lindis, our expedition takes us
to Central Otago where we gather ripe rosehips along
the shores of Lake Dunstan. Brinza cheese is sourced
from Gibbston Valley at the foot of Kawarau Gorge. Further
south, we find wild spinach and begin our return north.
Via Haast Pass and Westland, we pick pikopiko fern fronds
in the bush and gather wild watercress in a mountain
stream. Our journey ends in Hokitika where broomflower
wine completes our vision"
up what made this dish the winning one, fellow judge
Chef Jos Wellman said:
each dish and chef is judged individually and to a set
criteria, Christine scored highly not only on her final
dish - its taste, presentation and balance (of colour,
flavour, textures and ingredients) - but she scored
very highly on all the other areas also. She was extremely
well organised, her hygiene standards were exemplary
and she displayed a level of overall professionalism
well beyond her years. The practice and training put
in to her culinary techniques shone through. Her inspirational
use of pounamu (Jade) slates as her serving plates set
off the dish wonderfully".
from the crowd of hundreds watching the event, Gwen
Shusterman of New York and Ken Smith of California are
seen here enjoying the winning dish:
New Zealand Wildfoods Chef of the Year competition is
a Tai Poutini Polytechnic event sponsored by:
you would like to find our more about this unique food
previous columns about the festival
more complete knowledge about the whole festival,
go to the official Wildfood Festival website <click
you all there next year?
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