Greg Piner is ‘Proud as Punch’ that he and his team won this year’s Best Venison Dish in this year’s Silver Fern Farms Premier Selection Awards.
Speaking to the group chef of Dunedin’s Vault 21 restaurant after the win, announced at a dinner in February, he says he was “very, very happy” with the outcome.
“For me though, it’s very much a team win, I couldn’t have done it without the guys behind me.”
It’s also plain he is passionate about and loves working with the meat.
“Venison is amazing and is the most underutilised meat in New Zealand,” he believes. “It’s lean, super-healthy, really good to work with and has a great flavour.”
The team spent two to three weeks working on and perfecting the winning dish with its hero, cured Silver Fern Farms venison short loin – “an exceptional product that tastes really good,” he says. This was plated up alongside a trio of mushroom, pickled shiitake, cep puree, tempura needle mushrooms, compressed radish, ponzu, black truffle salt, pea tendrils and crispy shallots.
“Our philosophy is to the think outside of the box,” he says, pointing to the fact Vault 21 was the first restaurant to serve exotic items like locust and cricket flour in New Zealand.
“This dish paints a picture of a deer walking through the forest,” he explains, adding it was positioned to be light and fun.
“We worked to include all the elements, blending all the senses together in the combination of softness of the venison, versus the tartness of the dressing with the crunchiness of the radish. We’re aiming for whole stimulation of the mouth.”
The restaurant has sold a “phenomenal amount” of the plate and he intends to keep it on the menu.
“We’ve got some exciting stuff coming up and we will definitely do another venison entry next year.”
Piner’s dish was one of 12 finalists in the competition, whittled down from 73 entries, that were re-judged by Kerry Tyack and Tony Adcock, both well-respected food and beverage critics and experienced judges in national food competitions.
Paul Limacher, chef de cuisine at Chameleon Restaurant in Wellington, took out the supreme Premier Master of Fine Cuisine, along with Best Beef Dish and Best Metropolitan categories, runner-up was Daniel Hill of Pitches Café and Restaurant in Ophir Central Otago, while Geoff Ngan, head chef at Shed 5 in Wellington won Best Lamb Dish. All were required to make either Silver Fern Farms’ venison, beef or lamb the hero of the dish.
Greg Piner echoes judges’ comments about the high standard in the competition, now in its fourth year.
“The level of competition was so high. When we’re lined up with those other guys, we’re as proud as Punch.”
This article first appeared in Deer Industry News magazine (April/May 2017) and is reproduced here with permission. Check out the magazine for more in-depth deer industry specific news.