Cuisine Artisan Awards 2017: the winners

Michael Meredith, Simon Wright and Sid Sahrawat during judging for the Cuisine Artisan Awards 2017.
JASON CREAGHAN

Michael Meredith, Simon Wright and Sid Sahrawat during judging for the Cuisine Artisan Awards 2017.

The Cuisine Artisan Awards, now in their ninth year, continue to celebrate small New Zealand producers. Our passionate and talented 2017 winners have made some exceptional products. We'd like to thank Cuisine Good Food Awards three-hatted chefs Simon Wright, Sid Sahrawat and Michael Meredith for joining our judging panel, along with our sponsors, Farro Fresh and Marisco Vineyards. "The excitement and pleasure we get from the awards every year is very real for us," says Farro Fresh general manager Michal Haines. "We work closely with many of these artisans, so seeing them being awarded for their hard work is always special." Siobhan Wilson, marketing manager for Marisco Vineyards, says, "We have been sponsors of the Cuisine Artisan Awards since the beginning and are consistently delighted by the talented, hard-working artisans we have in New Zealand. We take great pride in supporting artisan producers to get their products out and seen by consumers."

THE JUDGES
Cuisine senior food writer Fiona Smith (head judge); editor Kelli Brett; deputy editor Alice Neville; senior food writer Ginny Grant; The French Café chef-owner Simon Wright; Merediths chef-owner Michael Meredith; Sidart and Cassia chef-owner Sid Sahrawat; Farro Fresh general manager Michal Haines and Marisco Vineyards marketing manager Siobhan Wilson.

SUPREME WINNER
LINE'S KNÆKBRØD ØL KNÆKBRØD 

Line's Knaekbrod Ol Knaekbrod.
JASON CREAGHAN

Line's Knaekbrod Ol Knaekbrod.

Line Hart's cumin knaekbrod was an Artisan Award winner in 2015, and now, in just her fourth year of business, the Auckland-based Danish cracker maker has taken top billing with a unique collaboration with craft brewer Hallertau. The Øl Knækbrød (øl is the Danish word for beer) was developed with Steve and Hayley Plowman, owners of the brewery based in Riverhead, north-west of Auckland, as a way to use up spent grain left over from the brewing process. The by-product was being given to a local farmer to use as animal feed, but the couple was aware it had greater potential, and set Line the challenge of developing a cracker using 10 per cent spent grain. "I played around with incorporating it into my base rye recipe as the already slightly denser texture of the rye was a great fit for the spent grain," explains Line, who makes her traditional Danish crackerbread to a recipe given to her by her mother, and rolls each batch by hand. The huskiness of the grain posed a bit of a challenge, but with a bit of experimentation she eventually got the balance right. Line then decided to add some Hallertau beer to the cracker to round off the malt flavour imparted by the grain. 

She experimented with the Hallertau range and in consultation with the Plowmans, eventually settled on Hallertau No 3, the Copper Tart Red Ale. "It gives it a really lovely hue," Line explains. An intriguing aspect of making this cracker is that each batch varies slightly depending on what Hallertau has been brewing. "When I pick up the buckets of spent grain it always smells slighly different," says Line, "and consequently each batch tastes slightly different. If they've been brewing a dark beer, the grains have almost a chocolatey smell. I like that – it really cements that it's a handmade product." As well as loving the concept, the judges praised the crackers' perfect thickness, flavour and texture – "She's just got it right," was the general consensus. facebook.com/knaekbrod

​RUNNER-UP
EURO GOURMET MEATS COPPA

Euro Gourmet Meats' coppa.
JASON CREAGHAN

Euro Gourmet Meats' coppa.

In every sense it's paddock to plate for Jacqui and Spencer Johnstone's business. Their education on all things porcine began in 1994, when they set up Cressy Farm west of Christchurch. After a few years in the business, the couple grew tired of feeling short-changed by wholesalers and retailers, so decided to take matters into their own hands. They began selling their pork from the farmers' market at Riccarton House. 

"Somebody was making money off it; it was not the farmer," Jacqui says. The couple soon realised how much they enjoyed interacting with customers, so thought it was only right to expand their range to cater to them. They sought butchers to help make bacon with their pork and found themselves working with Brian Nieuwenhuize at Euro Gourmet Meats, branching out into the world of charcuterie from there. Eventually they bought the business from Nieuwenhuize, who continues 

to make the products as head butcher, using his father's recipes, some of which are over 50 years old. The Johnstones help, balancing butcher life with the farm. Now Euro Gourmet Meats is exclusively using Cressy Farm pigs for their pork products, Jacqui says. "We're very much into doing things in the old, traditional way." The judges adored the coppa, a traditional Italian dry-cured product, praising its marbling and great flavour, and were big fans of the pork pies Euro Gourmet Meats also entered. eurogourmetmeats.co.nz

WAIHEKE HERBS WAIHEKE HERB SPREAD

Waiheke Herbs Waiheke Herb Spread.
JASON CREAGHAN

Waiheke Herbs Waiheke Herb Spread.

Some years before foraging was all the rage, and any food lover worth their salt knew that one man's weed was another's delicacy, Wendy Kendall was experimenting with the wild herbs growing in her Waiheke Island garden. She has been making her Waiheke Herb Spread since 2002, and entered it in Cuisine's very first Artisan Awards in 2009 (it was named a 'close favourite'). In the 2014 awards, fellow Waiheke artisan Ringawera nabbed the supreme award with its herb lavash, made using none other than Waiheke Herbs' Waiheke Herb Spread. Similar to a pesto, but containing no nuts or cheese, the paste is a blend of the familiar – rosemary, lavender, sage – and the not so – nasturtium, calendula, New Zealand spinach, dandelion and plantain. It's unique and consistently delicious. "We chose herbs that grow all year round, so we can make it with freshly picked herbs every week of the year," explains Wendy, whose organic herb garden many of the herbs come from. The use of dandelion always intrigues people, she says. "I've met a few older people who say after the war, we always had dandelions in our salad." 

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It's a nutrient-dense herb that is quite bitter, but that bitterness doesn't overpower the other flavours and, says Wendy, it stimulates our digestive juices. Plantain, meanwhile, has a "wonderful cut-grass aroma" and is very soothing for the digestion. In addition to the herb spread, Wendy makes a herb salt and a herb vinegar, and has recently added an aioli with herbs to the range. She also produces a range of natural skincare. waihekeherbs.co.nz

THE KVAS COMPANY BROD ORIGINAL KVAS BROWN

The Kvas Company's Brod Original Kvas Brown.
JASON CREAGHAN

The Kvas Company's Brod Original Kvas Brown.

Jack and Sabina Bristow couldn't understand why kvas, a refreshing, non-alcoholic fermented beverage from Eastern Europe, wasn't popular outside that region. Sabina is Russian and grew up drinking the kvas made by her grandmother, while Englishman Jack both drank and brewed it while living in Moscow for 18 years. "No one really seems to have made an attempt to take it out of Eastern Europe," says Jack, "which surprises me, as people come to Russia and they try it and like it." After moving to Christchurch in late 2013, the couple felt there was a gap in the market for non-sweet non-alcoholic drinks, so The Kvas Company was born. Made by lactic-acid fermentation using a rye starter, kvas draws comparisons with kombucha but the flavour is more subtle. It was traditionally made with stale rye bread that was dried in the oven, but Jack and Sabina bake their bread, made with organic rye flour, until it's in a dry state ready for the kvas. They don't add yeast, preferring to create the environment for lactic-acid fermentation to occur naturally. In the Slavic world, berries and herbs are mainly used to flavour kvas. The Kvas Company produces a "Brod Traditional" and a "Brod Original" range – brod was added to the brand name as for English speakers it's easier to say than kvas, and in Russian is the root word for the words that relate to fermentation. The Traditional range comprises Original Rye, Lemon and Blueberry, while the Original includes the winning flavour, Brown – a tasty blend of cold brew coffee (made from scratch), cinnamon and cloves. Alongside the Brown is the Rosé (made with rosebuds and cardamom pods, the Blond (jasmine and vanilla), and the Violet (lavender, cacao and lemon). "I don't think you can find these flavours anywhere else in the world," explains Jack. thekvascompany.co.nz

LEEDS STREET BAKERY SALTED CARAMEL COOKIE

When it comes to world-famous-in-Wellington status, the Leeds Street Bakery salted caramel cookie rivals the Cuba St bucket fountain. Judging day was the first taste for many of our judges, and they weren't disappointed, with Sid Sahrawat declaring "I could eat that all day". The cookie is indeed addictive, says Leeds Street Bakery's Jesse Simpson, a potential hazard first-timers are warned about when they buy one. The bakery sells 20 to 30 a day, he estimates, with a similar number being gobbled up over at its sister cafe, Ti Kouka. A dozen or so other cafes and stores in the capital sell the cookie too, and it's available at Auckland's Red Rabbit Coffee in Parnell – which, incidentally, was based next door to the bakery, with the two running in partnership, until the roastery made the move up north last year. Jesse and his brother Shepherd Elliott (pictured – Jesse is on the right) opened Leeds Street Bakery in November 2013, initially to supply bread for Ti Kouka. Both the cafe and bakery have a local, sustainable and organic ethos. "It's about putting products out there that we can be proud of," says Jesse. "You can walk with your head held high." Soon demand grew and they now supply their beautiful breads to multiple Wellington eateries, including Shepherd's eponymous restaurant that opened a stone's throw from the bakery last year. The slow, natural fermentation process forms a big part of all their breads' success, says Jesse. They entered the sprouted rye bread into our awards too, and it impressed the judges almost as much as those addictive cookies did. leedsstbakery.co.nz 

Leeds Street Bakery's salted caramel cookies.
JASON CREAGHAN

Leeds Street Bakery's salted caramel cookies.

JEROME'S BABA LOAF

Jerome Ozich can't really pinpoint the moment he fell in love with bread, but he knows where it happened – at Auckland's Crafty Baker. "That's where the curiosity and passion began," Jerome says. What followed was lots of research, plus some work with Crafty Baker's Lee Morgan, paired with plenty of reading of Tartine by Chad Robertson. Jerome is now combining organic and biodynamic New Zealand flours, water and salt to create his bread. Clearly, the recipe list is uncomplicated. "I can't sell it to you as some new, innovative way of making bread. That's not the case," Jerome says.

What he is selling you is something that's not often seen these days – bread made the way it was done before commercial yeast. The process isn't nearly as fast as it is with commercial loaves. It takes days to ferment and rise, before finally being baked. There are plenty of variables – it could be humidity, the temperature of the air or water, how much of the fermented starter is used and how long the dough is rested for. The ingredients provide the flavours of the loaf, while time does the rest, he says. He makes 48 loaves a week, in a family friend's commercial bakery, and uses Instagram to sell his bread. "Once you taste it, you remember what real bread tastes like," he says. instagram.com/jjeromes

Jerome's Baba Loaf.
JASON CREAGHAN

Jerome's Baba Loaf.

WOODEN SPOON BOUTIQUE FREEZERY​ MOVIE NIGHT ICE CREAM 

Experimental, wacky and always delicious, Wooden Spoon Boutique Freezery is proving ice cream's more than vanilla. Based in Wellington, Midori Willoughby (above left) and Sharon Galeon have been inducing involuntary moments of nostalgia through their ice cream since 2012. The pair started their business as a "subscription" service, providing their products to customers on a monthly basis. Their yellow-and-white pin-striped tubs are now found in 40 supermarkets across the country. Both moved to Wellington from the United States for work, but have since found themselves dedicated to this successful endeavour. They look to their experiences and surroundings for inspiration, as well as memories. Their flavours might be inspired by something they tried on their travels, like their Vietnamese coffee ice cream (ca phe da), or nostalgia in the form of the winning Movie Night ice cream. The incredible popcorn flavour comes from freshly popped and buttered popcorn being steeped in the custard overnight before it's churned into ice cream, with frozen popcorn brittle adding a wonderful texture.

"It's not just the flavours. It's the events around them, like a summer at the beach. It's that feel-good moment," Sharon says. "We want to make sure that people who enjoy our ice cream can enjoy it often with their family and with their kids." There are eight flavours on the list now, five varieties of cookies for ice-cream sandwiches too, but they continue to experiment "to keep our minds fresh", Midori says. The result of those experiments are one-off flavours, often the result of collaboration, using products from the likes of Wellington Chocolate Factory, Garage Project beer and Fix & Fogg's nut butters. woodenspoonfreezery.com

Wooden Spoon Boutique Freezery's Movie Night ice cream.
JASON CREAGHAN

Wooden Spoon Boutique Freezery's Movie Night ice cream.

BAY OF ISLANDS SMOKEHOUSE SMOKED MULLET

"Caught in the Bay and smoked the old-fashioned way" is the motto of Bay of Islands Smokehouse, and it sums up Bryan Blackburn and Leanne Hardy's Paihia-based business nicely. Though under its current name it's been going for less than four years, the smokehouse is built on a strong family foundation. For 35 years it was Graham Hardy Seafoods, with Leanne's father at the helm. Graham, more commonly known as Smoky, was a bit of a legend in the Bay, and his closely guarded honey and salt brine recipe is the key to this smoked mullet's deliciousness, says Bryan. Smoky died in 2010 and "basically took it to his grave", says Bryan, "but there were some people around, like Leanne's brother and a couple of old-timers in Paihia, who had a fair idea."

Bryan had only recently moved up north and the smoking business was totally new to him, but the smokehouse was all set up and it seemed a shame to let it sit unused. "I had to tap into a few people's brains to find out how it worked." Bryan experimented for a while – "No one died," he jokes – and then eventually, "People said I'd got it right." Along with the brine, the smoking method makes a big difference, says Bryan – he hangs his fish rather than racks it – as does how well the fish has been looked after. All of his fish is caught locally, much of it by Leanne's brother Stephen Hardy. "Stephen really looks after the fish as soon as he catches it and I take particular pride in the way I prep it. I want to respect the fish, I guess." The judges thought the mullet, which is sold whole, was a beautiful product, praising the moist flesh and good flavour. They were also impressed with the smoked mullet roe the Smokehouse entered in the awards. Bryan sells his fish through a mobile shop that travels the Bay, and in the past year the smoked mullet has been picked up by local restaurants, including Russell's legendary Duke of Marlborough hotel. facebook.com/finzsmokehouse

Bay of Islands Smokehouse Smoked Mullet.
JASON CREAGHAN

Bay of Islands Smokehouse Smoked Mullet.

MIANN SEA SALTED CARAMEL BONBON

Using only the finest ingredients and striving for perfection is what it takes to create premium patisserie. Brian Campbell has proven his food is worthy of such a moniker over years in fine-dining kitchens, at Auckland's Milse and now at his own dessert restaurant Miann in the CBD. Alongside wife and business partner Roselle Campbell, Brian is providing twists on the classics as well as setting a standard for what top patisserie should be. The restaurant's name translates from Gaelic to "to crave" or "to desire", which is apt because the sweets on sale leave customers wanting more – so much so they've already opened a second Auckland location.

"It all starts with the ingredients," Campbell says. That means using Lewis Road Cream and Valrhona chocolate, Marlborough sea salt and Heilala vanilla. "That's what we base our whole business on," Campbell says. He doesn't just strive for sweetness, he looks for balance – using several varieties of chocolates with different origins, seeking different tastes to highlight. It's a sign of the Scottish chef's Michelin pedigree, having worked in world-class restaurants like Lucknam Park and for chef Gordon Ramsay, but also a sign of his desire to perfect everything he does. Whether it's the most intricate or seemingly simple treat, Campbell is fastidious about making it perfect – like with his winning sea salted caramel bonbon. miann.co.nz

Miann's Sea Salted Caramel Bonbons.
JASON CREAGHAN

Miann's Sea Salted Caramel Bonbons.

GREY LYNN BUTCHERS FREE-FARMED HAM 

This Auckland family-run butchery is making ham the way it was intended, chemical-free and with no compromises. It's a five to six-day process – free-farmed New Zealand pork leg is cured over a few days, hung to dry for 12 hours and manuka-smoked for a further 12 hours. Butcher Eddie Rodrigues (above left) says Grey Lynn Butchers' ham is about as traditional as can be – apart from the addition of a touch of maple syrup. The multi-award-winning butchery has become an institution in the Auckland suburb over the past five years, thanks to its community-minded attitude and pursuit of providing people the best products possible. Eddie and his aunt Lucia Rodrigues (above right) have a strict policy of selling exclusively New Zealand-sourced meat products. That's an important factor, especially as more people are wanting to know where their meat comes from and how it was treated. "We try to do everything on our own, and from scratch. Especially when it comes to pork," he says. "The majority of pork in New Zealand comes from overseas." greylynnbutchers.co.nz

SPECIALLY WRAPPED...
Gathered Game New Zealand Wild Venison Salami 

Grey Lynn Butchery free-farmed ham.
JASON CREAGHAN

Grey Lynn Butchery free-farmed ham.

We wanted to give a special mention to Gathered Game for its excellent packaging. Not only are the packets simple and classy, each has a unique code and instructions leading to the Gathered Game website. There consumers are able to see exactly where the deer used in the salami was dispatched, who shot it and what calibre round the hunter was using. For good measure, the weather conditions during the shoot are there too. gatheredgame.co.nz

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Gathered Game wild venison salami.
JASON CREAGHAN.

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The May issue of Cuisine is on sale now.
AARON MCLEAN

The May issue of Cuisine is on sale now.

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 - Cuisine

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