Meet our 2021 Matariki Dish Challenge Winners

Back for its sixth year, Waikato Food Inc’s 2021 Tino Reka te Kai Matariki Dish Challenge once again put Waikato and New Zealand cuisine on the map.

This year saw eleven entries from around the region create dishes that highlighted Matariki and the abundance of wonderful food grown and made in the Waikato. Lucky judges ate their way round all the entries to determine the finalists (Gothenburg, Hayes Common, Furnace, and Restaurant on Alma), which were then rejudged to determine the champion.

This year’s champion, Hayes Common and the People’s Choice winner, Gothenburg were announced at the Waikato Hospitality Awards on Monday 16 August.

Lisa Quarrie from Hayes Common said, “We were so pleased to be given the award because everyone had put so much work in. We all had a part in making the dish. It involved both front and back of house so meant a lot to all of us.”

The dish—foraged bull kelp cured kahawai, Jerusalem artichoke, pickled pikopiko, crispy skin, smoked roe—was, the judges said, “an exquisite dish. The idea to serve the kahawai crudo-style with the bull kelp curing, was highly creative. It worked beautifully, the fish was fresh, tender and flavoursome, enhanced by the delicious pickled pikopiko, crispy skin, Jerusalem artichoke puree (gorgeous), cress, and grated dried roe. I loved every mouthful and enjoyed the fresh sav blanc wine match.”

Shona Lambert from Hayes Commons front of house team said, “The wine pairing drew its inspiration by the dish and story behind it—a combination of earth (amphora matured wine) and sea (salinity on the palate) in celebration of Tupuānuku. We selected wine that practised biodynamic wine making, which includes looking to the night sky for guidance—this time the moon rather than the stars.”

While Lisa and Shona have competed in previous Matariki Challenges, this was the first for Head Chef Daniel Lawrence who was excited by the opportunity to use ingredients he would not normally. His inspiration, Dan says, “was to use ingredients from the ocean and land. I also really wanted to use some foraged ingredients and the pikopiko was especially fun to work with and I felt made the dish really stand out”.

People’s Choice Winners and a judges’ favourite was Gothenburg with their first ever entry in the Matariki Dish Challenge. They too used the competition to bring the skills of the whole team together in what the judges described as “a well-seasoned tasty dish that was well balanced”.

Their Kai whenua mahi tahi consisted of braised beef cheek, kawakawa spiced pappardelle, oyster mushrooms, watercress, brioche, macadamia and horopito crumb with a red wine reduction. Susanna Rislund Fullana from Gothenburg said they entered the challenge “because we wanted to showcase the Waikato produce and products and celebrate our country’s heritage”.

Julia Clarke from Waikato Food Inc said, “It was so great to have the Matariki Dish Challenge back this year. It is our flagship event and always highlights the immense talent, not to mention abundance of produce, in our region.” Julia goes on to say, “We were immensely grateful for the support of iCLAW who came on board this year as naming rights sponsors. As a not for profit trust, it’s crucial Waikato Food Inc form partnerships with those that share our vision like iCLAW.”