First Cervena Masterchef winner samples New Zealand

Simon Feitsma(right) and Jessica Baars learn more about Cervena over dinner at a homestay.

The first winner of the Hanos Cervena Masterchef competition, has come away inspired by what he saw and sampled during a recent whirlwind trip to New Zealand.

Dutch co-owner and chef of Eetcafe Schuitendiep in Groningen in the Netherlands, Simon Feitsma was accompanied by his partner Jessica Baars, who runs the restaurant. Together they enjoyed a two week prize-winning tour of New Zealand  last December.

“It was an amazing lifetime experience,” he says, adding the couple gained a really good impression of New Zealand and its deer industry during their visit. Their itinerary took them from Auckland to the Queenstown region, followed by the lower North Island.  Stops included visits to and homestays at Hawke’s Bay deer farms and top New Zealand restaurants, along with sightseeing.

“We saw the farmers work nice and friendly with the deer, which have a very nice life on the farm and also live in very beautiful surroundings,” he comments.

Very inspired by the New Zealand and venison cuisine he saw on the trip, he says it was great to see how other chefs work with the fresh New Zealand produce, which was unknown to him before the competition.

“They are very proud of it, just like the farmers.”

Now, using their first-hand experience, the couple will be able to show and explain to their diners about New Zealand, how its people live and how deer are raised.

In addition, Cervena dishes inspired by the trip, will be appearing on the Eetcafe Schuitendiep’s menu in 2017.

“Especially one inspired by the Cervena black pudding and rhubarb kimchi we ate at Logan Brown in Wellington,” says Feitsma.

The Cervena Masterchef competition was organised by Benelux foodservice wholesaler Hanos and supported by Deer Industry NZ, as part of the joint deer industry/government Passion2Profit programme. This particular project aims to introduce Cervena to the Benelux countries.

Feitsma was one of nine finalist chefs from different regions throughout Benelux to take part in the final at Hanos’ flagship store in Delft last February. The chefs had to come up with a dish using Cervena, provided by First Light, interpreting the theme ‘street food’ to show the meat’s versatility beyond the usual winter dishes. Judges said the food presented by all the competitors was of a high standard, was ‘tasty, modern and inventive’ and gave Cervena a prominent role.

Following the success of 2016, the 2017 competition is already underway and Feitsma is looking forward to joining the judging panel for the final, which is taking place on 20 February, again in the Hanos flagship store in Delft.

He says he has already fielded plenty of questions about his experience during the semi-finals from chefs eager to visit New Zealand.

“The prize of a visit to New Zealand is definitely a key reason why so many good chegs enter the competition. I thoroughly recommend the competition experience – and most definitely the prize.”

This article first appeared in Deer Industry News magazine (February/March 2017) and is reproduced here with permission.


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