Record numbers of New Zealand’s top chefs from the Bay of Islands to Winton are finessing their entry dishes as they compete for the title of ‘Premier Master of Fine Cuisine’ in the fourth annual Silver Fern Farms Premier Selection Awards.

The nationwide competition showcases the talent and craft of 73 of the country’s best chefs, who were invited to create an original dish for their menu using Silver Fern Farms premium red meat cuts of lamb, beef or venison.

The winner of the Silver Fern Farms Premier Selection Awards 2015 was Stuart Rogan, executive chef at Botswana Butchery Auckland. His winning dish of Reserve Beef Eye Fillet and Glazed short rib with parsley, mustard and horseradish crust, carrot puree, whipped garlic, asparagus and cep jus set the bar with its superb technique and stunning celebration of the art of meat preparation.

Diners can take advantage of this year's competition by sampling the delicious creations at participating restaurants from 28 September to 6 November. At the same time a team of over 30 experienced food experts, overseen by returning judging coordinator Kerry Tyack, will assess the entries. 

Silver Fern Farms General Manager Marketing Sharon Angus says the competition has gained momentum each year. This year there is a noticeable strength in regional entries which will offer a wide variety of dishes for restaurant guests to experience.

“The entries this year show that quality food is not only found in the main cities. There are some great restaurants in the regions serving exciting cuisine. We are delighted by the quality of entrants from right across New Zealand and think foodies are about to enjoy some exceptional red meat dining experiences.”

Award categories include best beef, best lamb and best venison dishes as well as the best regional and the best metropolitan. These specific awards provide an additional opportunity to acknowledge the chef’s top dishes.

Judging coordinator Kerry Tyack says it's exciting to see so many chefs using venison for their entry dish. This reflects growing demand by diners for different flavour experiences. 22 of the chefs are choosing venison to highlight their skill and creativity, others are combining two or three cuts in their dishes.

“These are the best cuts of beef, lamb and venison being cooked by the best chefs, and the dishes they serve are going to be outstanding. The quality of entrants is again very high and the judges are keen to sample what the chefs have created.”

He added, "If the quality of the dishes in the first three years of the Awards is anything to go by then the 2016 entries won't disappoint.”

Sharon Angus says chefs are particularly creative in how they introduce people to exciting taste experiences.

“We are looking forward to finding the best beef, best lamb and best venison dish which showcase the craft and expertise of New Zealand’s most talented chefs.”

Dishes will be judged on how well they ‘let the red meat be the hero’. Points will be awarded for presentation, preparation and cooking, taste and texture, and creativity.

Twelve finalists will be selected, with at least one from the following five regions:

  • Upper North Island (Auckland and Northland)
  • Central North Island (Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Central Plateau, Hawke's Bay)
  • Lower North Island (Taranaki, Wairarapa, Manawatu, Wellington)
  • Upper South Island (Nelson, Marlborough, North Canterbury, Christchurch, Timaru)
  • Lower South Island (Dunedin, Central Otago, Southland)

Finalists will be announced on 20 November, with Kerry Tyack and co-judge Tony Adcock visiting all finalist restaurants prior to Christmas to re-judge the dishes. Winners will be announced at an event in Auckland in February 2017, where the five category winners will be revealed and the supreme winner awarded the title of Premier Master of Fine Cuisine.