Fourteen years ago, 12 adventurous chefs in restaurants along Auckland's Ponsonby Rd took a culinary plunge by agreeing to participate in a competition that would test their ability to create two unique and unusual dishes ... then pair them with beer. Thus began the the Monteith's Beer and Wild Food Challenge. Kerry Tyack has been head judge of the challenge right from the start and has recently released a book, Wild Kitchens.
Colleen Thorpe asks Kerry about the challenge and his love of food
WHAT IS THE MONTEITH'S BEER AND WILD FOOD CHALLENGE?
The food challenge is a fun event designed to give chefs throughout the country an opportunity to create the perfect pairing of food from the wild and a beer from the Monteith's family of beers. At the same time, it is an opportunity for diners to discover how well good food and good beer work together to create a delicious meal.
WHAT IS YOUR ROLE IN THE CHALLENGE?
I invented the challenge concept and have been the head judge since its inception.
ARE YOU A HUNTER-GATHERER?
I have been, but less so now that I am so busy. I still enjoy gathering shellfish and relish every opportunity to get to the beach.
MOST PEOPLE USE WINE WHEN IT COMES TO ADDING A BIT OF ALCOHOL TO A RECIPE ... WHAT BEERS CAN BE USED INSTEAD?
Any beer can be used in cooking. Beer is, after all, a type of food.
WHAT IS YOUR FIRST MEMORY OF FOOD?
Food rituals - Sunday roasts, Friday-night fish, after-rugby buffets, chicken on special occasions, threepences in Christmas puddings and the exotic nature of 1970s packaged rice risotto.
WHO WAS THE MAJOR INFLUENCE IN YOUR LOVE OF COOKING?
Not so much who but what. I have always been prepared to try and cook for myself food that I have tasted and enjoyed. Plus, my mother always involved us in the preparation of meals by asking us to peel potatoes and pumpkin for the roast and grate vegetables for the soup, etc. Most of all it is the pleasure that family and friends seem to get from food that has been prepared for them.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE DISH?
Too many to mention but fresh fish, simply prepared, is always a favourite.
WHAT INGREDIENT COULD YOU NOT LIVE WITHOUT?
Fresh herbs - they can make the most ordinary dishes and least expensive meals delicious.
IN THE COOKING WORLD, WHO DO YOU MOST ADMIRE?
Anyone who cooks with care and passion, and especially those who have great respect for and knowledge of their ingredients.
WHAT DISH DO YOU MOST LOVE TO COOK?
I have a recipe for schnitzel stuffed with bread, mustard and red onions, and casseroled with lashings of mushrooms. It's simple to make, very tasty and great any time of the year with New Zealand pinot noir. I also get great satisfaction from making five-spice duck consomme and my sons love my version of Mexican food.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST COOKING DISASTER?
A pavlova I cooked when I was a student studying in the United States. I couldn't find caster sugar and tried to make do with what they call candied sugar. I ended using it to line a deep bowl, filling it with fresh fruit and lashings of whipped fresh cream, and making out that it was intentional.
WHAT IS YOUR SECRET INGREDIENT?
Can't share - it would no longer be a secret. But I do favour unsalted as opposed to salted butter. I believe unsalted gives you more control over your seasoning. And having a good fish sauce always on hand.
IF YOU WERE THE GOVERNMENT'S MINISTER OF FOOD, WHAT WOULD BE YOUR FIRST RULING?
That's easy. Get really tough on importers of foods and ingredients that fail to comply with even the most basic labelling laws. Buy local and buy New Zealand.
WHAT THREE NEW ZEALAND FOODS ARE AT THE TOP OF YOUR LIST?
Pasture-fed meat, kumara and greenshell mussels.
TELL US THREE THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF PEOPLE MAY NOT KNOW OR MAY BE SURPRISED TO LEARN:
It took a long time for me to come to trust my palate. After long periods of dining out, I enjoy the simplicity of poached farm eggs on toast. If I win Lotto I won't hesitate to give up working and use my time to create a fantastic vegetable garden that provides fresh vege all year round.
Wild Kitchens, The Best of Monteith's Beer and Wild Food Challenge
by Kerry R. Tyack, Harper Collins, $44.99