RICHARD PONDER, SOUS CHEF, SALT ON THE WATERFRONT AT THE WATERFRONT HOTEL, NEW PLYMOUTH

At just 16, Richard Ponder started working in a kitchen in a small restaurant in his local town in the Midlands in the UK and has always enjoyed the challenge of cooking. Ponder moved to New Zealand 10 years ago and said it’s the best place on earth to gain experience working in both casual and fine-dining restaurants. His dish for the awards consists of Silver Fern Farms beef two ways, tartare and crispy rib braised with beetroot pickles, gel, rice cracker and wasabi snow. His dish has been described by judges as beautifully delicate and intriguing. “The meat was diced small and mixed in with the other ingredients so while not the visual hero it was definitely the focus of the dish,” said the judging panel. “All of the other elements were faultless, the beetroot crisps texturally perfect and good colour, the shoe string beetroot soft but still with a little resistance, the rice crackers crisp, the wasabi snow fine and it did ‘melt’. Well-conceived and well executed. Obvious understanding of the ingredients and their qualities and skill in preparing them. A clever and thought provoking dish.