Local chefs are championing a more sustainable way to source and serve the food we love.
Words Vanessa Ortynsky
There’s no doubt about it, New Zealand is a foodie mecca. We are blessed with incredible produce and many talented chefs. There are plenty of restaurants and organisations who are championing our country as one of the world’s best food destinations. Eat New Zealand is one such group; a collective of New Zealand's chefs, producers, media, tourism and event operators inspired to create a national platform to promote and champion our best food, drink, and culinary tourism opportunities.
Established in 2015 by Giulio Sturla (Roots), Eat New Zealand is helping stimulate the development of sustainable food systems from source to plate and beyond. At Christchurch’s recent Nostalgia Festival the collective hosted Talking Plates, a pop-up kitchen that travels to events and festivals up and down New Zealand to dish-up discussion around issues facing our food businesses (as well as delicious food).
Its aim is to get people thinking about what they can do to change the way we grow, catch, purchase and prepare our food here in New Zealand. At Nostalgia, three of Canterbury’s best chefs cooked for festival goers: Alex Davies from Gatherings, Aliesha Gabrielle from Fresh Press Pizza and Carlos Rodriguez from Twenty Seven Steps. Their kitchen served up a fish dish that utilised the whole fish sourced directly from the fisher who caught it, heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil from Spring Collective, served on chargrilled seeded sourdough from Bellbird Bakery using Canterbury-grown grains. To ensure nothing was wasted, they prepared a blue cod ceviche with bull kelp, native spinach, wild fennel, wild parsley, red onion, celery, green tomato and lemon juice. Crowdsourcing funded Talking Plates’ design, signage, set-up, plates, tees as well as food costs. Money pledged will also go towards future Talking Plates events.
Sustainability on the menu
There are many South Island restaurants with sustainability at their core and consumers are continually becoming more informed and discerning about their food choices. More menus around Christchurch feature pasture-fed meats, farm-raised free range eggs and organic produce. There’s also increased interest in supporting smaller, local producers. Gatherings in Christchurch is leading the way, with produce sourced from a farm in Swannanoa where chef Alex Davies previously worked, and from other local Canterbury suppliers.
Elsewhere, Nelson’s Hopgood’s & Co. is all about simple food done well and sources many organic vegetables from local farmers and showcases the best wines the region has to offer. In Dunedin, I enjoy stopping in at Plato, where they don’t overcomplicate food. A former hostel for seafarers around the world, Plato retains links to the sea through an ever-changing menu with a focus on seafood, alongside local produce and beverages. I also like to tuck into some Otago Chocolate Company (OCHO) chocolate from the Otago Farmers Market. This craft bean-to-bar chocolate maker imports fermented and dried beans from the Pacific to make their chocolate from scratch, which includes roasting, grinding, conching and tempering the chocolate before moulding it into bars. They don’t blend any of the chocolate, so each batch is fully traceable back to the farmer co-operative where the beans were grown.