International chefs visit Nelson for coveted food industry awards

The winner of the ‘Best Ōra King Dish’ New Zealand has been announced during an official awards ceremony at Nelson’s Suter Art Gallery.

Mark McAllister, an Auckland-based private chef, was awarded the coveted 2018 food industry accolade for his dish “Salmon Solstice”, an edible interpretation of an ancient megalithic carved stone from Newgrange, a Neolithic site in Ireland.

Fellow New Zealand finalist, chef Anthony Page, joined McAllister and New Zealand Ōra King ambassadors – Marc Soper, Shaun Tyagi and Shaun Clouston – along with 20 visiting chefs from Australia, North America and Japan, for the annual celebration.

Now in its sixth year, this year’s Ōra King Awards received entries from 50 New Zealand chefs, all of whom were challenged by this year’s ‘Inspired by Art’ theme. The chefs were encouraged to take inspiration from a piece of artwork across any medium, then craft an edible masterpiece worthy of the coveted Best Ōra King Dish accolade.

McAllister’s winning dish incorporates Ōra King salmon to represent the ethereal orange, red and yellow hues of the sun on winter solstice – the driving inspiration behind his dish.

His salmon rock plate has been curated to eat like a world class three-star Michelin dish, deliciously flavoursome and perfectly balanced. Each component of the dish from the edible smoked potato “stones”, accompanied by a foraged wild seaside salad – to the perfectly arranged salmon sun with its rays of petals and pickled pumpkin delights the senses, with the final touch of the solstice-inspired saffron sauce setting the dish alight.

Ōra King Awards judge and renowned Kiwi chef Geoff Scott says he was particularly impressed by the care and precision of this year’s New Zealand winning dish, which exuded unique plate appeal.

“Mark’s winning dish ‘Salmon Solstice’ was simply stunning – his concept has been executed at the very highest level, taking this year’s art theme and delivering this to the plate while clearly showcasing Ōra King salmon as the hero”.

Judge Lauraine Jacobs – who returned for her fifth year and attended the prestigious award ceremony, recalls an enjoyable month visiting competing chefs.

“The creative talent of chefs entering this competition continues to impress me year on year. It is so inspiring to see such a diverse mix of chefs from across New Zealand (and the world) apply their creativity and culinary expertise to showcase Ōra King, as well as incorporating the ‘Inspired by Art’ theme.

“Chef Mark McAllister’s dish was commended for its creative brilliance and novelty; the award was well-earned, and I extend my congratulations to him.”

Scott agrees, praising all entrants’ dedication to incorporating the ‘Inspired by Art’ theme.

“I truly must commend this year’s talents. This year’s ‘Inspired by Art’ theme was a loose theme, there’s so many ways to articulate and bring this to life on a plate. Each creation embodied personal elements of its maker and these elements were clear in the final dish. These chefs gave it their very all, proving that culinary creativity clearly has no limits.”

General Manager of Marketing at New Zealand King Salmon, Jemma McCowan says the surging use of Ōra King amongst some of the most talented chefs in the world has helped grow the brand’s reputation on a global scale.

“Ōra King has strong relationships with chefs who demand high value from any ingredient that stands the test of time in their restaurants. We know that there are already well over 1400 restaurants internationally that serve Ōra King salmon on their menu with at least 350 who have signed up this year, a testament to the quality of this homegrown product that celebrates all that New Zealand has to offer.”

The winners for the Best Ōra King Dish Australia, North America and Japan were also announced at last night’s award ceremony, and feature across social media and online at orakingsalmon.co.nz.