Mayor shares amazing chicken dish

01:14, Jan 23 2013
Alistair Sowman
Alistair Sowman

Alistair Sowman is best known by Marlburians as the mayor, but before his entry into politics some 12 years ago garlic was his main focus.

Since his days as a schoolboy at the then Marlborough College he enjoyed growing the culinary staple, eventually turning it into a successful export business.

Proudly Blenheim born and raised, Alistair took up a position with the Bank of New South Wales after school, working in Blenheim then Wellington.

His family, who at that time owned and ran Geoffrey T Sowman Funeral Directors, asked him to return to Blenheim to help run the company.

"I think I learned a lot about dealing with people, and empathy during my time with the business, which has definitely helped me in my political career," Alistair said.

He maintained his garlic growing business, which he started after school and decided to go into exporting it fulltime after 20 years with the family business.


"A friend of mine, Peter Jackson, was the grower and I was the exporter. The company was called Wairau Products and at one time we were one of the biggest exporters of garlic from this region - the company is still running now," said Alistair.

In 1980 he married Thelma and the couple have two children together, Ben who now lives in Australia, and Jessie, who is in Wellington.

An interest in politics is something that came from his uncle, Harold Sowman, who served as a councillor and deputy mayor in Marlborough.

"I had always had an interest in local body politics. I had been involved with organisations like Blenheim Round Table and I wanted to be involved in the decision-making process for Marlborough, so I put my name forward for nomination as a councillor in 2001."

Alistair was successfully elected into the position and in 2004 he was encouraged to run for mayor.

"Running for mayor was always something I had aimed for but I hadn't planned to do so after just one term on council.

"But I think it is essential to have a least one term on council before you do."

Now in his third term as mayor he has seen a lot of change in Marlborough and faced some stiff challenges during that time.

In the past 10 years he has seen the landscape change considerably with the viticulture industry boom.

"It has put a lot of pressure on the province and has also brought a lot of wealth into Marlborough.

"There have been challenges for council but I am quietly satisfied with the job that has been done so far," Alistair said.

Outside of his mayoral duties the early riser enjoys regular walks up the Wither Hills or cycling at 6am before work. In his younger years he was an avid sportsman, captaining the Marlborough cricket team, a side he played for for 20 years, as well as being a keen squash and rugby player.

"I love living here. I love the quality of life, the climate and the activities that are on offer - this is a really great town to live in."

Alistair admits the kitchen isn't his area of greatest skill, but he can hold his own when the need arises.

"Thelma is a really great cook and I have to admit she does most of the cooking, but I know my way around if I need to."

Mayor's Amazing Chicken Dish

500g to 700g chicken

Fresh broccoli (or two frozen packets)

One tin mushroom soup

Small bottle of cream

1/2 tsp rosemary

Ground pepper

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Grated cheese (to taste)


Butter (to taste)

Lightly cook the chicken and blanch the broccoli.

Mix the cream, soup, pepper, rosemary and Worcester sauce, stir and heat until smooth in a pan.

Arrange the broccoli in a ovenproof dish and cover with the chicken then cheese.

Pour the sauce over and top with breadcrumbs and butter.

Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes.

The Marlborough Express