Chef Darren Wright on eating your greens

Darren Wright 1

At the helm of this year’s judging panel at the 2018 Nestlé Toque d’Or competition will be top industry chef Darren Wright.

From humble beginnings as a kitchen hand to his current role as Chef Owner of Chillingworth Road in Christchurch, the highly acclaimed chef has garnered numerous awards and accolades along the way. Included in his trove are 1999 SPHC Chef of the Nation, top spot in the 2006 Global Chef’s challenge and team member of the NZChefs Olympic Squad

Wright has traversed the Nestlé Toque d’Or competition floor for many years now, offering his knowledge and expertise to a new group of emerging chefs, as they compete for top honours.

“It’s hugely important to them because the event serves as a catalyst for new opportunities and a springboard for careers in the industry,” Wright says.

“Being head judge is, therefore, always a great privilege. It’s also fascinating to see the progression students make each year and the way in which the bar gets raised higher and higher every time.”

Wright says one of the most exciting aspects of the yearly competition is the way in which competitors show case new trends.

 “It will be interesting to see how the current trend towards the creative use of vegetables will be tackled by this year’s competitors. Increasingly, vegetables and inventive ways of using them can make or break a dish these days.”

With the ever-changing focus on food influenced by local and international trends, vegetables have risen in recent years from the humble and, at times, somewhat reluctant side dish to take a starring role on many menus.

Once thought of as merely a necessary component of a meal in line with the ‘eat your greens’ mentality, vegetables have risen in importance.

“These days we have cauliflower steaks, pasta made from shredded vegetables, smoked tomato and even the emergence of vegetable butchers. Getting the most of every part of a vegetable is also an exciting challenge in these waste and cost conscious times. Internationally, all the indicators are pointing towards the importance of vegetables, as top industry commentators and influencers are zeroing in on it as a key trend.”

At Chillingworth Road, Wright says he is embracing the vegetables mantra by working directly with vegetable growers.

“Our focus is very much on locally sourced fresh produce and carefully planning the produce into our regularly changing menus. We also look to use vegetables in multiple ways, always being mindful of taste, texture, palate and visual appearance.”

With culinary great Anton Mosimann of the UK also confirmed on this year’s judging roster, Wrights says it will be interesting to hear his observations on the subject.

Source: NZChefs Plate July 2018 Newsletter