Turkish baklava and salmon mousse may not be an obvious pairing – but they made for a winning combination at yesterday’s Australasia Tapas Competition, held at Ignite Colleges in Manukau.
Cordis chef Eda Tunc took out top spot with her ‘Baklava for All’, a surprising yet show stopping dish which drew on both her Turkish heritage and life in Aotearoa New Zealand.
“I wanted to bring Turkish and New Zealand culinary traditions together, to celebrate the harmonious marriage of two distinct but equally delicious worlds – and I also wanted to push the boundaries of traditional recipes and challenge the norms of what can be combined in a single dish,” says Eda.
She certainly did that, creating a baklava like no other. Not only was it infused with lemon Horopito syrup and the popular Turkish drink ayran, but its hero ingredient was the very unexpected Stewart Island King salmon, whipped into a delicate mouse and garnished with sea grapes.
The panel of seven judges, which included celebrity chefs Simon Gault and Michael Meredith, were unanimous in their decision to award the 28-year-old chef the grand title of 2023 Australasia Tapas Champion, and with it, the chance to represent Australasia at the World Tapas Competition in Valladolid, Spain in November.
“‘Baklava for All’ stood out due to its innovative fusion of Turkish and New Zealand culinary traditions, showcasing a unique and harmonious flavour profile that challenged culinary norms,” says judge and E Spain organiser for the World Tapas Competition, Angel Moreton.
“Ultimately, the dish’s innovative flavours, cultural significance and skillful execution made it the clear winner.”
That’s not to say competition wasn’t stiff. With 29 talented chefs from both sides of the Tasman it was a cookoff of epic proportions. In fact, competition organiser and Strategic Partnership Association Vice President for Skills Chef Jasbir Kaur says the calibre of this year’s entries was the highest in the event’s five-year history.
“This year’s competition showcased an incredible level of talent and innovation,” says Jasbir. “The chefs brought their A-game, pushing the boundaries of creativity and flavour. It was truly impressive to see how each dish told a unique story and reflected the culinary diversity that defines New Zealand’s tapas scene.”
For Jasbir, it’s this storytelling that really sets the Australasia Tapas Competition apart from other culinary contests.
“As a chef who has been both a competitor and organiser of tapas competitions, I’ve learned that the true magic of these events lies in their ability to blend creativity, culture and community on a single plate. Each competition is not just a culinary showdown, but a celebration of artistry and passion that fuels our kitchens, bringing together chefs and food enthusiasts in a delightful dance of flavours and innovation.
“It’s not just about winning or losing; it’s about the connections we forge, the stories we tell through food, and the ever-evolving tapestry of taste that defines the New Zealand tapas scene.”
While Eda took out the all-expenses paid trip to Spain and the slot to compete at the World Champs, there were plenty of other prizes up for grabs.
Cassia’s Stephen Sami earned second place with his spectacular togarashi-coated shell with ropa vieja and black garlic, while Best Tapa Concept went to The Union Post’s Gurujodh Singh for his snapper olive egg with aged chorizo and romesco gel garnished with furikake potato paper. Meanwhile, Jaehoon Eom from Havana Bar and Restaurant was awarded Cutting Edge Tapa for his beef tartare flamenco creation.
With just two months until the world competition, Eda Tunc will be putting any finishing flourishes on her ‘Baklava For All’ in the hope of taking out the world title. She can’t wait to showcase her Turkish-Kiwi culture on the global stage.
“I am feeling so proud and flattered to be able to represent Australasia in Spain and show the world how amazing Turkish baklava can be when you combine it with unique New Zealand ingredients,” she says. “I believe this is a dish that will appeal to everyone, no matter what culture they are from, and that’s exactly why I named it ‘Baklava For All’.”
The 2023 Australasia Tapas Competition was sponsored by E-Spain, UNOX, HTT (Hospitality Training Trust), Great Taste NZ and Nestlé, with special thanks to Vutter, Olive Black, Puhoi Distillery and Education New Zealand.