Finalists announced for 2016 Silver Fern Farms Premier Selection Awards

Aaron Ballantyne, head chef for Hopgood's Restaurant in Nelson created his finalist dish using Silver Fern Farms lamb double cutlet and slow cooked shoulder with artichokes, asparagus, salted grapes and capers.

After receiving a record number of entries the judges of the 2016 Silver Fern Farms Premier Selection Awards have found their twelve finalists. In the end it was the use of creative cuts and innovative techniques that separated the best chefs from the rest by the smallest of margins.

The field was narrowed down from 73 entrants who created an original dish using one of the Silver Fern Farms’ cuts of lamb, beef or venison. Beef has proven popular with judges with seven beef dishes making the finals, using a wide variety of cuts including short rib, tongue, and beef cheeks.

The final restaurants are spread from Waiheke Island to Ophir. Three restaurants, Palate Restaurant (Hamilton), Pitches Café and Restaurant (Ophir), Salt on the Waterfront (New Plymouth), are backing up on their success after also being finalists last year. In the case of Palate Restaurant, this is the fourth straight year that chef Mat McLean has made the cut.

Judges travelled from Paihia to Winton, tasting and scoring the dishes based on presentation, meat cookery, complementing elements, taste and texture, creativity, and dish promotion.  The aim was to let the red meat be the hero on the plate.

The dishes featured on restaurant menus over five weeks in September and October, giving both judges and diners the opportunity to sample the delicious creations.

Judging coordinator Kerry Tyack says it was difficult to trim the entrants down to twelve finalists. “The standard was so high that for the first time ever we have named eight restaurants who are ‘Close Contenders’. These restaurants were less than a handful of marks behind the 12 finalists.”

“I’ve never been more excited by the extent of positive feedback from the judging team. Not only have these highly qualified assessors reported amazing feats of creativity but they have noted an ever-increasing awareness from chefs all around the country of the value in choosing to cook with premium cuts of meat. The tally of marks has shown this to be a year of high quality competition. Selecting finalists was difficult enough. Choosing just one for the supreme award from such a stellar line-up is a going to be an even more challenging mission””

Silver Fern Farms general manager marketing, Sharon Angus, says this year’s entrants’ dishes were innovative and of excellent quality.

“We are always excited to work with such talented chefs and see what they can create using our Silver Fern Farms lamb, beef and venison. The diversity in the dishes this year is outstanding with many chefs making use of some of the less-obvious secondary meat cuts,” she said.

“Many of the chefs have commented that their entry dishes have been in hot demand with diners, and the Premier Selection Awards are a great opportunity for chefs to showcase their artistry and talent using the finest cuts of red meat.”

Diners throughout New Zealand can experience the 12 finalist dishes until the end of February 2017.

Kerry Tyack and co-judge Tony Adcock will visit all finalist restaurants prior to Christmas to re-judge the dishes. Tyack has years of experience as a writer, critic and educator in the New Zealand food and drinks industry, and Adcock is one of New Zealand’s most experienced restaurateurs with over 40 years in the industry. Both bring a wealth of experience in judging national food competitions and are looking forward to working together and applying their experienced palates to judge the finalist dishes.

Winners will be announced at an event in Auckland on the 8 February 2017, where the five category winners will be revealed and the supreme winner awarded the title of Premier Master of Fine Cuisine.

The finalists in the 2016 Silver Fern Farms Premier Selection Awards and their dishes are:

  • Archive Bar & Bistro, Mudbrick, Waiheke Island, head chef Logan Coath. Dish:  Slow cooked Silver Fern Farms beef short rib with celeriac & fennel remoulade, radish and garden herbs
  • Molten Wine Bar, Auckland, head chef, Alex Aitken. Dish: Wood fire-grilled Silver Fern Farms rolled lamb belly salad of pea, broad bean, goats cheese with anchovy butter
  • White + Wong’s, Auckland City, head chef, Tu Fearn. Dish: Silver Fern Farms master stock braised beef cheek, eggplant miso & burnt butter puree, wok fried mushrooms with chilli & black vinegar, choi sum & crispy tripe
  • Palate Restaurant, Hamilton, head chef, Mat McLean. Dish: Silver Fern Farms short rib, grilled tongue, smoked potato & liquorice
  • Salt On The Waterfront at the Waterfront Hotel, New Plymouth, sous chef, Richard Ponder. Dish: Silver Fern Farms beef two ways, tartare & crispy rib braised with beetroot pickles, gel, rice cracker & wasabi snow
  • Amayjen – The Restaurant, Feilding, head chef, Andrew May. Dish: Silver Fern Farms venison tenderloin encased in a truffle & trumpet mousse, with beetroot,  Silver Fern Farms Shank risotto cake, cranberry gel, celeriac remoulade, fondant pot, shallot, kale, seasonal vegetables & a port wine & beetroot jus
  • Chameleon Restaurant at the Intercontinental Wellington, Wellington, chef de cuisine, Paul Limacher. Dish: Silver Fern Farms beef tenderloin, mushroom ragout, roast Parmesan gnocchi, button onion & asparagus
  • Shed 5, Wellington, head chef, Geoff Ngan. Dish: Cumin gremolata Silver Fern Farms lamb fillet, lamb neck & swede pithivier, honey & mint carrot, broad beans, chèvre croquette, braising liquor
  • Hopgood’s Restaurant, Nelson, head chef: Aaron Ballantyne. Dish: Silver Fern Farms lamb double cutlet & slow cooked shoulder with artichokes, asparagus, salted grapes & capers
  • Pitches Café and Restaurant, Pitches Store, Ophir, head chef, Daniel Hill. Dish: Eye of the Mist – Silver Fern Farms Reserve eye fillet, beef cheeks, bone marrow
  • Bistro Gentil, Wanaka, head chef, Mario Rodrigues. Dish: Steak and Onions – Silver Fern Farms Reserve eye fillet, onion caramel, tempura shallots, smoked shallot puree, red onion relish, herb oil & black garlic jus
  • Vault 21, Dunedin, group chef Greg Piner. Dish: Cured Silver Fern Farms venison short loin, trio of mushroom, pickled shiitake, sep puree, tempura needle mushrooms, compressed radish, ponzu, black truffle salt, pea tendrils & crispy shallots 

Close Contenders were:

  • Auckland: Harbourside Ocean Bar Grill, Head Chef – Thomas Barta
  • Cambridge: Alpino Cucina, Head Chef – Noel Cimadon
  • Tauranga: Trinity Wharf, Head Chef – Stuart Perry
  • Hawkes Bay: Mister D, Head Chef – David Griffiths
  • Palmerston North: Nero, Head Chef – Scott Kennedy
  • Wellington: Pravda, Head Chef – Johannes van Kekem,  Café Polo, Head Chef – Adrian Green
  • Marlborough: Saint Clair Vineyard Kitchen, Head Chef – Keith Gregory


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