Back for its sixth year, the Ōra King Awards recognise the outstanding contributions from chefs working with Ōra King – New Zealand King Salmon’s premium foodservice brand. The theme of this year’s awards, Inspired by Art, provided plenty of scope for creativity. The finalists will be announced on Monday.


Private Chef, Auckland
Dish: “Salmon Solstice”
Inspired by Irish Megalithic art

Mark McAllister got his first taste for hospitality at age 15, having dropped out of school to pursue his dream of becoming a chef. “I secured a job working the dish pit at a busy local restaurant in my hometown back in Ireland,” he said. “Six months later I was heading up the grill section, turning out 150 covers a night, and I was still only 16. I guess you could say, this was when I got ‘the bug’ for cooking.” He spent his nights at the restaurant and his days at culinary school. Three years and a few jobs later, he left home to travel and get some experience. He moved from New York City to Sydney then back to Dublin, before settling in Auckland where he works as a private chef around New Zealand and abroad.

Mark McAllister is no stranger to the Ōra King Awards. Last year, in his first time entering the competition, he made it to the finals. He was lucky enough to go on a trip to Japan with twenty other chefs from around the globe, in what he describes as an “unforgettable experience.”

“The piece of art that inspired me is an ancient megalithic carved stone from Newgrange, a Neolithic site in Ireland,” he explained. “It is over 5000 years old and some of the earliest art known to man. It predates the pyramids and Stonehenge. Also, a winter solstice phenomenon that happens there once a year, as well as the ancient site and the sun, are the inspiration for the dish.”

McAllister collaborated with a local stone artist to make the serving vessels for his dish, also incorporating a potato ‘stones’ element and used burnt leek, pounded seaweed and dehydrated Ōra King salmon skin to achieve the stone effect on the coating. “The bright orange, red and yellow hues of the sun on winter solstice is really the driving inspiration behind this dish and it’s represented by the beautiful rich colour of the salmon.”