It seems the stars aligned when the nine innovative South Island-based chefs, came together for a one-night pop-up restaurant in Christchurch, where they cooked 10 unique dishes designed to showcase the natural abundance of the South.
The event, attended by 64 people, was held in The Gym at the Arts Centre. Auckland-based food and wine writer Lauraine Jacobs was Master of Ceremonies and the wines were selected by Stephen Wong from Wine Sentience, Wellington. Tickets including wine were $250 each and the proceeds went to ConversatioNZ, the not-for-profit initiative created to push culinary boundaries and share the story of New Zealand food with the world.
“It was an amazing event,” says Jacobs. “To have nine chefs in one space who all have such a passion for New Zealand food; who really understand what’s special about it and can create such unique dishes – it was as good as it gets. They don’t need a magic box of tricks and the night was so well-orchestrated by food heroes Giulio Sturla [Roots Restaurant, Lyttleton] and Liane Leesment.”
One stand-out main among many for Jacobs was produced by the Jonny Schwass/Bevan Smith collaboration. “They each cooked lamb. Bevan’s had been grass-fed on his Otago farm north of Oamaru and Jonny’s was specially selected from Canterbury. It had just been weaned so had only been milk-fed and the contrast between the two dishes was fascinating – the flavours were quite different.”
Leesment says ConversatioNZ’s Cook Up series is about so much more than pop up events around the country, “Wherever we hold a Cook Up, the kitchen becomes a forum for thought, ideas, experiences and questions that all resonate well beyond the events themselves.”
The South Cook Up also inspired collaboration on wider scale with selected suppliers taking part. Temuka Pottery made plates especially for the night, and contributing to the ambience of the evening were sustainable products from Palm Leaf Plates and Living Light Candles.
“Producers, growers, farmers and nature are part of the conversation too,” says Leesment. “We want to hear more from chefs, more from growers and producers all around New Zealand and see what we can do together to push the boundaries. If you have ideas, bring them to us and let’s make them happen. We are taking our first steps, so it’s very important that people in the industry know that they can be part of it!”
The ConversatioNZ South Cook Up Chefs
James Stapley, Bistro Gentil, Wanaka
Fleur Sullivan, Fleur’s Place, Moeraki
Giulio Sturla, Roots Restaurant, Lyttleton
Ainsley Thompson, Sherwood, Queenstown
Paul Jobin, Annandale Luxury Farm and Luxury Villas, Banks Peninsula
Jonny Schwass, The Harlequin Public House, Christchurch
Darren Lovell, Fishbone, Queenstown
Bevan Smith, Riverstone Kitchen, Oamaru
Ken O’Connell, Bracken, Dunedin
Photos by Meredith Dyer.