Twelve finalists have been announced for the Silver Fern Farms Premier Selection Awards, which saw the use of creative cuts and innovative techniques that separated the best chefs from the rest by the smallest of margins.

The field was narrowed down from 73 entrants who created an original dish using one of the Silver Fern Farms’ cuts of lamb, beef or venison. Beef has proven popular with judges with seven beef dishes making the finals, using a wide variety of cuts including short rib, tongue and beef cheeks.

The final restaurants are spread from Waiheke Island to Ophir. Three restaurants, Palate Restaurant, Pitches Café and Restaurant and Salt on the Waterfront, are backing up on their success after also being finalists last year. In the case of Palate Restaurant, this is the fourth straight year that chef Mat McLean has made the cut.

Judges travelled from Paihia to Winton, tasting and scoring the dishes based on presentation, meat cookery, complementing elements, and taste and texture, creativity, and dish promotion. The aim was to let the red meat be the hero on the plate.

The dishes feature on restaurant menus over five weeks in September and October, giving both judges and diners the opportunity to sample the delicious creations.

Silver Fern Farms general manager marketing, Sharon Angus, said this year’s entrants’ dishes were innovative and of excellent quality.

“We are always excited to work with such talented chefs and see what they can create using our Silver Fern Farms lamb, beef and venison. The diversity in the dishes this year is outstanding with many chefs making use of some of the less-obvious secondary meat cuts,” said Angus.

“Many of the chefs have commented that their entry dishes have been in hot demand with diners, and the Premier Selection Awards are a great opportunity for chefs to showcase their artistry and talent using the finest cuts of red meat.”

Winners will be announced at an event in Auckland in February 2017, where the five category winners will be revealed and the supreme winner awarded the title of Premier Master of Fine Cuisine.

The finalists and their dishes are:

Archive Bar & Bistro, Mudbrick, Waiheke Island

Head Chef: Logan Coath

Dish: Slow cooked Silver Fern Farms beef short rib with celeriac & fennel remoulade, radish and garden herbs

Molten Wine Bar, Auckland

Head Chef: Alex Aitken

Dish: Wood fire-grilled Silver Fern Farms rolled lamb belly salad of pea, broad bean, goats cheese with anchovy butter

White + Wong’s, Auckland City

Head Chef: Tu Fearn

Dish: Silver Fern Farms master stock braised beef cheek, eggplant miso & burnt butter puree, wok fried mushrooms with chilli & black vinegar, choi sum & crispy tripe

Palate Restaurant, Hamilton

Head Chef: Mat McLean

Dish: Silver Fern Farms short rib, grilled tongue, smoked potato & liquorice

Salt On The Waterfront at the Waterfront Hotel, New Plymouth

Sous Chef: Richard Ponder

Dish: Silver Fern Farms beef two ways, tartare & crispy rib braised with beetroot pickles, gel, rice cracker & wasabi snow

Amayjen – The Restaurant, Feilding

Head Chef: Andrew May

Dish: Silver Fern Farms venison tenderloin encased in a truffle & trumpet mousse, with beetroot, Silver Fern Farms Shank risotto cake, cranberry gel, celeriac remoulade, fondant pot, shallot, kale, seasonal vegetables & a port wine & beetroot jus

Chameleon Restaurant at the Intercontinental Wellington, Wellington

Chef de Cuisine: Paul Limacher

Dish: Silver Fern Farms beef tenderloin, mushroom ragout, roast Parmesan gnocchi, button onion & asparagus

Shed 5, Wellington

Head Chef: Geoff Ngan

Dish: Cumin gremolata Silver Fern Farms lamb fillet, lamb neck & swede pithivier, honey & mint carrot, broad beans, chèvre croquette, braising liquor

Hopgood’s Restaurant, Nelson

Head Chef: Aaron Ballantyne

Dish: Silver Fern Farms lamb double cutlet & slow cooked shoulder with artichokes, asparagus, salted grapes & capers.

Pitches Café and Restaurant, Pitches Store, Ophir

Head Chef: Daniel Hill

Dish: Eye of the Mist – Silver Fern Farms Reserve eye fillet, beef cheeks, bone marrow

Bistro Gentil, Wanaka

Head Chef: Mario Rodrigues

Dish: Steak and Onions – Silver Fern Farms Reserve eye fillet, onion caramel, tempura shallots, smoked shallot puree, red onion relish, herb oil & black garlic jus

Vault 21, Dunedin

Group Chef: Greg Piner

Dish: Cured Silver Fern Farms venison short loin, trio of mushroom, pickled shiitake, sep puree, tempura needle mushrooms, compressed radish, ponzu, black truffle salt, pea tendrils & crispy shallots

Close Contenders (also in the Top 20 Silver Fern Farms Premier Selection Awards 2016)

Auckland: Harbourside Ocean Bar Grill, Head Chef – Thomas Barta

Cambridge: Alpino Cucina, Head Chef – Noel Cimadon

Tauranga: Trinity Wharf, Head Chef – Stuart Perry

Hawkes Bay: Mister D, Head Chef – David Griffiths

Palmerston North: Nero, Head Chef – Scott Kennedy

Wellington: Pravda, Head Chef – Johannes van Kekem, Café Polo, Head Chef – Adrian Green

Marlborough: Saint Clair Vineyard Kitchen, Head Chef – Keith Gregory

Award categories for the 2016 Premier Selection Awards:

  • Best Beef dish
  • Best Lamb dish
  • Best Venison dish
  • Best Metropolitan
  • Best Regional
  • Premier Master of Fine Cuisine