On Monday, my ascendency up the local food writing ranks was marked by a ceremony at Wellington's St James Theatre. The local food fraternity gathered to congratulate me on excellent blog posts on poaching eggs, on cheese rolls, on lying to you about making ANZAC biscuits, and on hating salmon, as well as bagging on corporate burger chains and on inspiring a night/food market in the Left Bank. No problem, I told the Academy - all in a week's work for this greedy, verbose Omnivore.
Actually no, that wasn't what it was at all. It was the launch of Visa Wellington on a Plate. It was held on the stage at the St James though, so you can perhaps see where the confusion fell. I did, however, sort of see it as a validation of my deranged scribblings three times a week on this site. I mean, a year ago, I was just eating for pleasure, but now I eat with a sense of broader social responsibility. Like the genius phrase I coined a while back says - "everything I chew, I chew it for you" (I came up with that - hur, hur). I have stormed the barricades, so to speak, and the guardians of the barricade pantry have welcomed me in and said "hey dude - you fancy a sandwich?"
So, anyway, there I am on the stage at the St James with the cream of Wellington's foodster (cheers, Tommy) folks. Some of them I know, and they have been terrifically supportive (or, at least, tolerant) of my blog so far - Yellow Brick Road boss lady (and WOAP Advisory Board chairperson) Rachel Taulelei, Matterhorn head chef Dave Verheul, my buddy Shaun Clouston from Logan Brown, as well as excellent fellow reviewer/blogger Laura Vincent aka Hungry and Frozen.
This is good - it means I don't have to stand around like an awkward, pimply teen at a Blue Light Disco, or make an embarrassment of myself by gorging on the Ruth Pretty Catering goodies (a lovely porky terrine, some terrific cheeses including a fabulous Barry's Bay aged cheddar, some halved soft-boiled eggs with a crumb and herb topping, and a fairly glorious goat cheese soufflé. And I dallied and missed out on a chocolate crème brulee, damn it all). It also means that I get to meet a bunch of people from food-world whose work (and by work, I really mean food) I admire.
I meet Rachel's City Market partner, chef, restaurateur and writer Martin Bosley, as well as former Ambeli chef Sam Pope, the "matriarch" of Wellington food Ruth Pretty (meeting her is a bit like what I imagine it would be like to meet the Queen), Shepherd Elliott of Ti Kouka Café, and for me, most excitingly, Larder chef/owner Jacob Brown and his partner Sarah Bullock, whose food and restaurant I love, unreservedly. How chuffed Jacob is when I tell him my parents declared our meal at his restaurant earlier this year to be the best they have ever eaten speaks volumes.
All are absolutely delightful; gracious, and welcoming toward someone they could justifiably see as an interloper, an outsider - someone unfit to breathe the rarified air of the Wellington food community. But, you know what? I think they can see we are all on the same side. They want you to eat well, I want you to eat well, and by everybody taking their place in the (ahem) food chain - suppliers, chefs, writers and reviewers - it is more likely that you will be able to. These are people who are deeply passionate about their commitment to providing and preparing the very best food, just as I am passionate about eating it, and writing about it.
It was really tremendously pleasant - a real sense of community and positivity. I also think that this year's focus on local, seasonal food has really struck a chord with the participants - this is the food that people who really love food love to cook. I also had the impression that these were people who do what they do because they have to, rather than just because they can. This is a calling. These people are doing God's work...
I even hear a joke - what's the fastest way to amass a small fortune? Start with a large fortune, and then open a restaurant.
This year, Visa Wellington on a Plate will be bigger, brighter, bolder than ever before. In fact, there are so many events on offer that you could blow your mind, and your budget, in a flash. Despite the fact that tickets went on Visa presale yesterday, and on general sale today, I am going to pace myself. If I miss out on some things I would like to attend, so be it (Jah bless, Jah provideth, etc). There will be plenty of desirable events that are not limited - how's about Rachel's Cuba Street pop-up Oyster bar, and the burger marathon that will be Burger Wellington?
That said, I am pretty keen on the look of The Larder's Six Feet Under menu (different animals' feet, rendered delicious - whoa!) and Turduckenqua, as well as Logan Brown's Ata Rangi Wild Game Degustation Dinner, and Beef Wellington, wherein a whole cattle beast will be broken down in front of you, before being cooked by Chef Rex Morgan.
Plenty more to be said about Visa Wellington on a Plate, but all in good time, my friends - stay tuned. As ever - I'll try to eat only the most good and glorious, and report back...
Are you attending Visa Wellington on a Plate events - have you booked already, will you do it today - or leave it to the Gods?! Have you particularly enjoyed WOAP events in past years? Anything you would particularly like me to attend and report back on?
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