The challenge was on again for student chefs at Otago Polytechnic in Cromwell last night. Final year students competed against their peers to cook the best New Zealand produce – home-produced beef and lamb.
In teams of three, students prepared a 3 course meal, devising a menu of their choice. The only requirement was to include a lamb entrée and beef main – and for the very producers of the meat they prepared. The guest list included farmers from across the Central South Island, plus key meat industry personnel. “It is invaluable for these young chefs to learn the qualities of New Zealand’s grass fed beef and lamb; the best in the world. And they did us proud; everyone thought they were on the winning table,” said Event organiser and Millers Flat farmer, Peter Macdougall. Sentiments echoed by Owen Poole, Chairman of the event’s sponsor, Alliance Group. “The standard of cuisine was superb,” Poole said. “We are delighted to provide this opportunity for the students to use our premium New Zealand beef and lamb. As future chefs working all over the world, they become important advocates for our quality New Zealand product.”
To also gain a taste of life beyond the kitchen door, the chefs worked ‘front of house’, responsible for table setting and serving diners. “The students loved being able to interact with their customers and gain feedback from those who know so much about beef and lamb,” observed Roydon Cullimore, Chef Tutor at Otago Polytechnic.
One serving of each meal was judged by local chef, Karen Marinkovic, from Riverrun Lodge in Wanaka and Ross Thomson, Promotions Manager at Alliance Group, with three teams receiving cash prizes to the value of $1000. The top prize was taken out by Deborah Allan and Ali Imhoof of Queenstown with Vida Thompson from Alexandra. All part-time students, studying just one day a week, their aim was clear - keep it clean, keep it simple. This was reflected in their dishes of a spice-encrusted lamb rump entrée with redcurrant dressing followed by a fillet steak on dauphinoise potatoes, with asparagus, béarnaise sauce and port wine jus. “Winning was a shock, but we are thrilled. The experience of working in a team was invaluable and rewarding,” says team member, Deborah Allan. Second place went to the Philippino team of Christelle Sy Peng, Reginald Mendoza and Fatima Caren Flor, with the team of Sean Barker from Oamaru, Georgia Ball of Christchurch and local boy, Rick Bloxham placed third.