As the hospitality industry grapples with Covid-19 restrictions, some of New Zealand’s top foodies are finding innovative new ways to showcase Kiwi produce.

Next month, New Zealand will make its debut at the eighth Soria Gastronomica, considered to be the most important International Mushroom Congress in the world. The biennial event is held in Soria, Castilla y León, Spain and attracts famous chefs and scientists from all corners of the globe. But this year, thanks to Covid-19, the conference will be held entirely online.

“Participants for 2020 will include two chefs per country with representatives from Spain, Portugal, Mexico, China, Japan, Canada and New Zealand, and although most of us can’t attend in person, technology is enabling exciting and fresh ways to participate on the global stage,” says Jasbir Kaur, General Manager of cookery and hospitality school Ignite Colleges and President of NZChefs’ Auckland chapter.

The top chef has teamed up with esteemed mushroom scientist Dr Alexis Guerin and Huka Lodge executive chef Paul Froggatt, to shine the spotlight on niscalo mushrooms grown in the South Island of New Zealand.

“We want to let chefs from all over the world know what fantastic quality New Zealand mushrooms are, and we also want to share some different ways of cooking with them.”

The talented trio have developed a high end documentary video for the conference, including Jasbir’s step-by-step guide to making mushroom caramel and kawakawa custard.

“First, I ferment the mushrooms in a bed of salt for four days, which is a technique traditionally used in Russia and India. Flavour is added through bay leaves, garlic, cinnamon and star anise and then I caramelise sugar, and slowly infuse the mushrooms and cream into it, creating a salty mushroomy caramel. This is accompanied by custard made from milk and dried kawakawa leaves.”

While mushroom caramel and kawakawa custard are an unlikely pairing, Jasbir believes they make a winning combination, and is enjoying inspiring her Ignite Colleges cookery students with this, and other equally original creations.

“It’s important that New Zealand chefs stay relevant and keep pushing the boundaries – even while we are navigating the challenges of a global pandemic. This is something that I strive to instil into all my student chefs at Ignite Colleges.”

The full story of how Jasbir and top chef Paul Froggatt will take NZ mushrooms to the world, appears in the October issue of Hospitality Business!

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