Rookie sausage maker headed for Food Awards
Chris Thorn has been making his own salami for years because he felt the wild venison he caught and took to butchers was not being valued or treated the way quality meat should be.
"They were not producing real salami from my perspective, so I started experimenting, with my recipes all trial and error," he said.
That experimentation has led to Thorn being named a finalist in the artisan food producers category in the NZ Food Awards in Auckland on October 12.
"I love eating salami," he said.
"Anything that goes well with gin, such as fennel and juniper, basically goes well with salami."
Thorn was brought up in Auckland, and his wife and business partner Sally is from Coromandel. They were at high school together in Wanaka, later moving to work in Queenstown, commuting from Kingston.
"Once we decided it was time to invest in the local salami market, there was a long slow process with the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) before we could start commercial production," he said.
"Building followed on after finalising all the paperwork needed by MPI, involving risk management plans, health and safety and food safety standards, with my wife Sally and I finally completing this arduous process, with a lot of help from Invercargill MPI office staff.
"We have kept moving south, buying the Lumsden site in 2014 and taking 18 months to build and set up. My skills were helpful, alongside local builder, David Stalker," Thorn said.
The reason for setting up the factory in Lumsden was because it was central to suppliers, and shipping and land costs were not expensive.
They are still commuting, but now from Te Anau daily, as they have purchased a block of land there.
"After the building was completed, more trials and perfecting recipes continued," Thorn said.
"It was fortunate that my brother in Australia was married to an Italian woman whose family still make salami the traditional way.
"They helped me with the tricks and techniques, which gave me a more traditional product and more authenticity."
"Over the past two years of commercial production we have developed new varieties and flavours with different textures and smells, trying our new ideas out on friends."
They buy wild venison from Fare Game (NZ) Ltd in Invercargill, caught in Fiordland, which gives their product its unique flavour. Herbs and spices come from the North Island.
"We are targeting salami enthusiasts who know what they want and are discerning," he said.
"We supply about 60 regular outlets around New Zealand which order on a monthly basis, with all products vacuum-packed in our personalised packaging.
"Sally has been working for the business full time for three months now alongside me," Thorn said.
"I enjoy eating salami and making a quality product which tastes so good, with my favourite being garlic pepper."
They have an exciting new product being developed, but they are not up to sharing the secret yet.
He is loving the venture, but is looking forward to having some weekends off. Their products will be at the Mossburn Market on the Sunday of Labour weekend.
"My spare time is spent hunting and fishing, and Sally likes exercising with the dogs," he said.
"We are going to the NZ Food Awards in Auckland as a finalist for two of our products, deer sticks and smoked paprika flavoured salami, which are entered in the artisan food producers award category.