Hospitality Business Magazine

The ultimate toastie taste test

The Great NZ Toastie Takeover is back for a fifth year with organisers again on the hunt for the country’s supreme toasted sandwich.

With free entry, the popular competition has gained momentum year on year, in 2021 attracting more than 120 entries and serving up a whopping 80,000 toasties over the duration of the search.

While organisers Cook & Nelson and McClure’s Pickles have made some tweaks to the format, with previous entrants guaranteed re-entry, the competition remains open to all New Zealand eateries (to the first 200 entries), whether they’re cafes, bistros, hotel eateries, bars, pop ups or hole-in-the-wall nooks.

Food truck entries are also welcome back in 2022 and will be judged on a designated weekend in May with the entrant required to provide exact date, time, and location details prior to the judging weekend.  

Other competition rules remain the same. Each toastie creation must be sandwiched between two slices of bread and able to be eaten by hand if necessary. The toasted sandwich must also contain cheese (or an acceptable vegan substitute) and pickles from the McClure’s Pickles range. Everything else is up to the toastie maker’s imagination. Each entry must be on the establishment’s menu for the full duration of the competition (April 13 to June 22) and must be available to customers during lunch hours or dinner hours as detailed by the entrant.

As in previous years, each toastie will be scored using set criteria. This includes presentation, effectiveness of preparation technique, eatability, taste, provenance and innovation.

The People’s Choice Award will also return in 2022 giving Kiwis the power to vote for their favourite participating eatery and toastie. The eatery with the most votes from the public will take away this year’s People’s Choice Award.  

2021 Winner of Mollies – Steve MacDougall with his Mojo Pork Cuban with a Twist. Image Credit Sarah Hodgett

Head judge and restaurant reviewer Kerry Tyack and judge, author, and foodie personality Annabelle White have made it even easier for participants this year by creating a video loaded with tips to help entrants score the highest marks possible across the set criteria, revealing what they look for when judging each toasted sandwich. 

Entries open today (February 28) and close on March 31. Judging will then begin from April 13 with the competition finalists announced on June 22. The supreme winner will be revealed on July 27.

A group of approximately 30 judges will be casting their eyes (and taste buds) over this year’s entrants. Those judges will be split across the following regions, with two eateries from each area going through to the final:

  • Auckland / Northland (as far south as the Bombay hills)
  • Hamilton/Waikato, Thames/Coromandel, Tauranga/Rotorua/BOP 
  • Central – Taupō /Napier Central North Island, New Plymouth and Whanganui/Taranaki
  • Wellington Region – north to Wairarapa and Palmerston North and east to Gisborne 
  • Nelson and Blenheim south to include Christchurch and West Coast as far south as Greymouth
  • Remainder of South Island to include Queenstown, Dunedin, and Invercargill

All finalists will receive a case or pail of McClure’s pickles and $300 worth of dine-in vouchers which will be given away to locals via social media.

The competition’s grand toastmaster and McClure’s Pickles founder Joe McClure will then visit the finalists to sample the entries and liaise with head judge Kerry Tyack to determine New Zealand’s top toastie for 2022.

The supreme winner will walk away with a year’s worth of pickles, $500 worth of dine-in vouchers, a toastie trophy and, most importantly, bragging rights to the best toasted sandwich in the country.

The People’s Choice Winner will walk away with a case or pail of McClure’s pickles and $300 worth of dine-in vouchers which will be given away to locals via social media.

Joe McClure, co-founder of McClure’s Pickles says he plans to make it down to New Zealand for judging this year and is looking forward to seeing the entries come through.

“This is one of my favourite times of the year, both for me and the McClure’s team  as we see what interesting flavour combinations come through from our Kiwi friends”, he says.

“After missing the last two years and having to input from afar, COVID permitting,  I can’t wait to return and sample the top finalist entries in person, experience the great Kiwi hospitality and see some more of the stunning New Zealand countryside.” 

Steve MacDougall from Mollies, Hotel D’Urville in Blenheim toasted the competition last year with his ‘Mojo Pork Cuban with a twist’ entry. With slow roasted pork belly, provolone, chimichurri, American mustard, McClure’s Pickles, and apple chilli gel slathered between toasted sourdough and served with kumara crisps, the sandwich was a standout for customers and competition judges alike. 

MacDougall decided to enter the Toastie Takeover competition for a second time, after getting through to the finals in 2019, but not quite crossing the finish line.

“I was determined to win in 2021. Hard work, dedication, and commitment with a bit of luck I’d say, saw us through to the finals and the big win!  Winning that trophy meant the world to me,” he says. 

“The business enjoyed a lot of publicity and consequently more trade. We still have people from out of town popping in and asking about our toastie. It’s an unforgettable experience and my advice would be get your thinking cap on, fire up the grill, and go for it”. 

To submit your own entry or view the full terms and conditions of the competition, go to the entry page on