Vegetables.co.nz sponsored competitions

WITT 3

Above: The team from Western Institute of Technology using cabbage as a wrap.

It may have been winter, but with a range of high-profile competitions being run over July, it was a hot month for vegetables.co.nz.  New Zealand fresh vegetables were used extensively in each of the four competitions that saw the country’s best and the brightest culinary talent from high school level to professional chefs to those working in aged care facilities battle it out for top honours.

The Nestle Torque d’Or, now in its 26th year, is arguably New Zealand’s most prestigious student cookery and restaurant service event.  Held in a total of 17 countries around the world, the Torque d’Or has launched many a stellar career with its grueling three hour kitchen cook off.  Teams are judged against WorldChefs International Judging Standards at every point of the process from preparation to presentation, taste and service.

This year’s Torque d’Or winners from Palmerston North’s Universal College of Learning (UCOL), Kate Bryant and Keziah O’Conner, prepared a stunning three course meal with an innovative use of vegetables.  The team’s Smoked salmon and pickled New Zealand vegetables followed by a main of Beef sirloin with kumara strudel, spinach, carrots, turnips and a caramelized shallot jus, offered both a sophisticated range of flavours and colours with picture perfect preparation and plating. 

Supporting young talent through its sponsorship of events and competitions is critically important to vegetables.co.nz as it is for the other key sponsors, Nestlé Professional, Beef+Lamb New Zealand, and Akaroa Salmon among others.  While encouraging a vibrant local culinary scene, competitions showcase the many original ways our top quality local ingredients are being used in the professional kitchen setting. 

Even those starting out on their culinary adventures can highlight new and exciting methods of preparing relatively simple fresh ingredients.  The humble pasty was elevated to new heights when Eufemio Castro and Pakeezah Suliman, both students at Auckland’s Onehunga High School took out the top award in the Secondary School Challenge at the NZChefs National Salon held in Auckland.  While the Cornish pasty may not spin wheels in the nation’s fine-dining establishments, it requires a surprisingly sophisticated skill set to achieve excellence in both the taste and consistency of the pastry and in establishing the right balance of flavours in the meat and fresh New Zealand vegetable filling.

Taste, texture and presentation were also high on the list of requirements for competitors vying for the Senior Lifestyle Cuisine Award. While competitors were challenged to prepare four servings of a main dish and dessert within a 90 minute time frame, the need to offer two portions in a soft format added another level of complexity.  With nutrition a real focus among this particular age group, all agreed that vegetables prove an excellent choice when faced with a wide range of dietary considerations.

With the numbers of those aged 65 years and over projected to reach the one million mark, Judge Michael Van de Elzen stressed the urgent need for aged care providers to recognise the appeal of high quality, great tasting rest home fare, as more residents with discerning palates and sophisticated demands enter into care.  It’s therefore not surprising that TVNZ’s ONE News were keen to cover the competition and announce the overall winner, Chef Rodney Philips of Elderslea Rest Home in Upper Hutt.

Another high profile competition saw Marc Soper of Wharekauhau Lodge crowned Chef of the Year with his elaborate three courses offering the judging panel a taste of perfection at the NZChefs National Culinary Salon.  Of particular note was his Cervena venison main, served with crumbed potato, garden spinach custard, celeriac puree, and other seasonal New Zealand vegetables.  The judges noted that Marc was extremely confident in the kitchen, showing a good range of technical skills. His dishes had great taste, a good balance of flavours and they were immaculately presented.

Chef Eric Lim from Chillingworth Road Restaurant ran a close second with his extremely elegant plating, demonstrating that New Zealand grown vegetables not only complement a perfectly cooked piece of meat but have what it takes to play a starring role – even in winter!