Last night the winners of Silver Fern Farms’ Restaurant Awards 2018 were announced with awards for restaurants around the country as well as a hat trick of awards for Nelson’s Hopgoods’ & Co.

The Silver Fern Farms Restaurant Awards are a national search for dishes that deliver the very best, inspirational and delicious food experiences, using Silver Fern Farms naturally raised, grass-fed red meat.

Aaron Ballantyne, Head Chef at Hopgood's & Co in Nelson has taken out the title of Chef of the Year in the Silver Fern Farms Restaurant Awards 2018. Aaron has the distinction of being the first South Island supreme winner since the Awards began in 2013.

Aaron’s dish won the Best Venison Dish category.

The dish of Silver Fern Farms venison, chestnut polenta, caramelised celeriac, fig and wild mushroom tapenade was described by the judges as "Total harmony on a plate". The generous portion of tenderloin and a crumbed slow cooked neck croquette were cooked to perfection and the venison was the hero of the dish.

To complete the hat trick, Hopgood's & Co Year was named the inaugural winner of the Silver Fern Farms Restaurant of the Year Award. The Restaurant of the Year was awarded for creating an ambience conducive to exceptional food experiences for diners through excellent hospitality and attention to detail, as well as celebrating the very best with Aaron’s red meat dish.

Paul Limacher, Chef de Cuisine at the Chameleon Restaurant InterContinental Wellington, won the award for Best Beef Dish for a second time in a row. Judges said this dish had perfectly executed meat preparation and was paired with innovative accompaniments; the umami butter being an absolute stand-out.
Five-time finalist in these Awards and Head Chef and owner of Palate Restaurant in Hamilton, Mat McLean, created the Best Lamb Dish. Using lamb cutlets cooked to perfection and lamb shanks in a moussaka ravioli. The dish deliciously delivered Mat’s expression of his craft and innovation.
Further north the title of Best Regional Restaurant went to Logan Coath at Archive Bar & Bistro at Mudbrick Vineyard, Waiheke Island.

Not only did the judges enjoy the flavour combinations of the dish, a slow cooked Silver Fern Farms lamb shoulder, they felt the warm atmosphere of the restaurant and excellent, attentive wait staff provided a truly memorable experience for diners.

The inaugural winner of the Silver Fern Farms Emerging Chef of the Year is Patrick Pope-Moody, Apprentice Chef, Chameleon Restaurant at the InterContinental Wellington. His dish, Silver Fern Farms venison short loin, fig, cauliflower and goat curd puree, beetroot, beet kraut and beetroot tile with sorrel, was hard to fault and skillfully delivered with perfectly balanced flavours. The new award recognises inspiring new talent and the hard work that goes into becoming a great chef; Patrick will receive a $5000 scholarship to assist with developing his career.

Head judges Catherine Bell and Geoff Scott commented, "It is great to see that chefs are showcasing Silver Fern Farms red meat as the hero of the plate, celebrating the premium cuts and naturally raised, grass-fed red meat. This aspect is what stood out in the winning dishes. It was clear that these chefs completely understand and have mastered the techniques involved in delivering perfect meat to increasingly discerning diners. Expertly prepared, rested and crafted into tasty main course plates. These chefs also displayed a great variety of skills in executing fine cooking and well-balanced choices of delicious vegetables and sauces to further show off the qualities of their chosen red meat cut."

Judges saw some wonderful examples of autumnal flavours in the accompanying dishes, including chestnuts, beetroot, wild mushrooms and celeriac. Many of the chefs were inspired to use secondary cuts such as beef cheek, shanks and short-ribs. The head judges said "The finalist dishes were truly delicious and it was a real privilege and pleasure to assess and enjoy them."

Silver Fern Farms’ Manager Marketing of Food Service, Bernie de Bono, says she was delighted with the caliber of this year’s entries and high quality of the dishes the judges had to choose from. "We have been so excited to see how the industry has embraced the awards this year. The depth of experience and knowledge of their craft has been displayed by all of the entries in the awards. By hosting these awards Silver Fern Farms is giving New Zealand’s highly skilled chefs the opportunity to share their talents and for that to be celebrated,” she said.

Diners can experience the finalist and winning dishes until the end of July 2018.

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