Kiwis were given a first taste of some of our best culinary talent on Saturday night at a launch event for the NZChefs team competing in next year’s Culinary Olympics.

The competition, to be held in Erfurt, Germany in October 2016, will host 2000 chefs from 40 countries around the world. Next year’s event will mark the first time a New Zealand team has entered the competition since 1988.

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The 180 guests at the weekend’s function had a taste of five proposed dishes for the ‘hot service’ element of the competition.

Grant Watson, Director of Global Foodservice – Fonterra, which is sponsoring the NZChefs team, says after 28 years of not competing at the Culinary Olympics, it is well and truly time to showcase New Zealand's phenomenal talent to the world.

“We have some amazing chefs in this country working with unique and innovative techniques and fabulous, fresh ingredients. The Culinary Olympics will not only give us the opportunity to compete on the world stage but show the world the talent we have here in New Zealand and to showcase our amazing ingredients.

“The New Zealand culinary world has changed so much over the past 28 years, and so has our cuisine. We now have star chefs and top rated restaurants which are as good as anywhere on the planet.”

He says Fonterra’s focus on innovation and the best quality natural ingredients made working with the Culinary Olympics team an ideal match.

In the lead up to next year’s Olympics, the NZChefs team will cook at a series of events / dinners around the country - giving Kiwis the opportunity to taste the dishes and the chefs the chance to hone recipes and their teamwork. These events will also involve workshops for local chefs to inspire them to become involved in culinary competitions.

“We want everyone in the country to have the opportunity to experience some of our best culinary offerings and ingredients, but also for local chefs to learn from the expertise of chefs in the NZChefs Fonterra Culinary Olympics team about what culinary competitions are about and how they can make them better chefs.

"Hopefully the team will also inspire some of the amazing young chefs we have coming through to take their skills and New Zealand’s amazing ingredients to the 2020 Culinary Olympics.”

Graham Hawkes, National President of NZChefs, is delighted with the high quality of chefs in the team to take on the culinary world. It includes a mix of experienced competition chefs with some exciting new talent, including Corey Hume of Blanket Bay (Queenstown), Darren Wright of Chillingworth Road (Christchurch), William Mordido of Chiko’s (Auckland), Mark Sycamore of Tequila Mockingbird (Christchurch), Jie Min Aw of AUT School of Hospitality & Tourism (Auckland), and Ken O’Donnell of Bracken Restaurant (Dunedin).

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Team manager Neil Maclnnes says the group is thrilled to be representing New Zealand and is excited about the challenge ahead.

“The opportunity to take the journey to the ultimate competition destination does not come around very often. Performing under this kind of pressure and at an international level is such an amazing career opportunity for all of us. We’re also excited about what we can learn from some of the best chefs in the world who we will be competing against.”

Graham explained that the team chose the dishes through a process of collaboration and that they will continue to evolve with each Olympic Feast event.

“We started with a blank plate and then carefully chose an iconic ingredient to be the hero of each dish - for example the salmon, venison or the cream cheese. We then added components through flavour profiles until all aspects of the dish worked together.

“Over the next 15 months this will continue until the entire squad is satisfied they will present a true menu that leverages the very best of New Zealand cuisine and ingredients.”

The menu:

Tiger Prawn Salad wrapped in Scallop Cannelloni

with seared scallop, bacon powder, pickled fennel purée and sauce vierge

Akaroa Salmon Fillet

on seaweed and vegetable salad, miso mayonnaise and gion dressing

Roasted Spiced Venison Loin

set on creamed spinach with venison neck tart, potato bread and butter pudding, carrot and

cumin gel, duxelle and glazed baby carrot with Pinot Noir jus

Mushroom and Cream Cheese Paté

gruyère espuma and parmesan biscuit

Vanilla Parfait with Raspberry Sorbet

encased in sprayed chocolate on hazelnut dacquoise, coconut and popping candy, chocolate crumb, mango jelly, passionfruit curd, whipped chocolate mousse and dark chocolate fond.

The recipes for these dishes will remain a closely guarded secret until the Culinary Olympics next year.