Top chef Marc Soper has won his third Gold Medal at this year’s Chef of the Capital competition. The Wharekauhau Executive Chef’s impressive menu featured locally sourced rabbit and venison as well as a dessert featuring everyone’s favourite chocolate, Whittaker’s. Not only did he win gold, Soper also took home a new award in recognition of culinary excellence.
This year’s theme was to create dishes that reflected an, ‘absolutely positive feel’.
“After winning a gold medal at last year’s competition, I really wanted to try for another this year,” said Soper. “Just like in the kitchen at Wharekauhau, the philosophy of locally sourced was carried through to the menu. One of the staff at Wharekauhau supplied me with the rabbit that featured as part of my main course that was from the Wairarapa. I paired this with Kapiti agria potato, roasted garlic aioli, quinoa, rabbit and Manuka honey reduction.”
Entrée’s could only be presented after 90 minutes of the competition with a 15-minute window for service. A total of four covers for three courses must be completed within the three-hour competition.
For his entrée, Soper paired 2013 Martinborough Vineyard Home Block Chardonnay.
“The dish has a number of components that work well when tried in a sip, and a bite manner. I find the notes of toasted brioche of the wine works well with the earthy leg wrapped in chard. The tropical fruit and stone fruit notes of the wine partnered perfectly with the delicate creaminess of the dishes’ poached component. Finally, there is a freshly popped popcorn aroma that is idea with the nutty and rich sauce.”
For the main course, Soper plated Tararua ranges fillet of red deer, parkvale mushroom custard, celeriac puree, speck, seasonal vegetables and a Havana coffee spiced jus.
“I paired the main with the 2013 Te Kairanga John Martin Pinot Noir from Martinborough. This Pinot Noir has great amounts of intense, concentrated spice, which is ideal for the meaty, gamey venison. The delicate tannins allowed the oriental spices of the dish to come to the fore without overpowering them. The wine holds good weights, and had a thick in-mouth feel that worked well with the earth driven dish. The long finish of this wine worked perfectly with the earthy custard and sprout components.”
Soper’s last but certainly not least, dish was a Whittaker’s baked bitter chocolate, coconut pannacotta, fresh orange and rosemary braised pineapple dessert with rhubarb and feijoa compote, pistachio and baby herbs. Paired with a Muirlea Rise Apres Wine Liqueur from Martinborough the first hit of strawberry and cherry sweetness partnered with the rich cocoa cake components. “The heat of the liquor comes through as a neat flavour enhancer for the sweet spices in the compote. The fact this product is fortified meant it had a very creamy mouth feel, and a certain nuttiness that worked with the pistachio, and texture wise, with the pannacotta.”
With only seconds to spare to present the final course to the judges, Soper decided to carry all four plates to ensure points were not lost. “I was just really hoping that they weren’t all going to fall, without getting dessert presented during service I would have lost crucial points and potentially lost the competition for myself. It may not have been plated as perfectly as I would have hoped to but I knew all the flavours and textures were there to make a great winning final dish.”
Soper has previously won gold at the 2011 and 2015 competitions. This year he took home a fantastic new oven for his efforts thanks to sponsors of the event, Moffat and Southern Hospitality.