People heading to the annual Taste of Auckland food festival, which opens on Thursday, can expect great food and music and the sound of 20,000 odd voices saying: "Oh my God, you have to try this."

It's one of organiser Rob Eliott's "favourite quotes" from the festival, and he hears it every year.

Eliott is the director of Lemongrass Productions, which runs the food festival. The event , which Eliott calls a "little gourmet village", is being held at Western Springs from Thursday to Sunday.

The atmosphere at the food festival is not to be missed. Photo/supplied
The atmosphere at the food festival is not to be missed. Photo/supplied

The event is into its ninth year and brings together some of the country's top chefs and restaurants, as well as leading chefs from overseas.

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Celebrity chef and My Kitchen Rules NZ judge Gareth Stewart will be taking part for the first time with three of his prestigious restaurants, Fish, Euro, and The Culpeper, and considers himself a "Taste virgin".

Gareth Stewart considers himself a
Gareth Stewart considers himself a "Taste virgin". Photo/supplied

"I'm really pumped for it," he said.

Some of the dishes he will be presenting include Argentinean red prawn with pork crackling and a slice of marinated pig fat, strawberry desserts made by "probably the best pastry chef", Habby Joypaul, and corn dogs made from smoked pork belly, dipped in barbecue sauce and chopped up pork crackling.

His team would also serve "sensational" Karitane crayfish.

People could look forward to "freshness" and "food with a story", he said.


Wouldn't it be cool if you could go around and sample some of the best restaurants in the city in one afternoon and it could cost you just a fraction of the price?

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Festival goers can sample gourmet food for a fraction of the price they would pay to go to one of the restaurants. Photo/supplied
Festival goers can sample gourmet food for a fraction of the price they would pay to go to one of the restaurants. Photo/supplied

Festival-goers can sign up to cook and eat a meal with one of the chefs in part of the new Electrolux Chefs' Secrets sessions, or watch one of their culinary idols on stage doing a demo.

The demos are run as part of the Electrolux Taste Theatre, which will showcase leading chefs including Peter Gordon, Sergio Maglione, Megan May, Nick Honeyman, Marco Edwards (Te Whau), Sachie's Kitchen and an appearance from Australian chef Neil Perry's Rockpool team.

"The concept of it was really that there's all these amazing chefs and restaurants that create this incredible food. Not everyone can go out and enjoy that food all the time. It can be quite expensive, right? Wouldn't it be cool if you could go around and sample some of the best restaurants in the city in one afternoon and it could cost you just a fraction of the price?"

'Oh my god, you have to try this' is an often-heard quote at the festival, accompanied with the speaker pushing a plate of food at their friend, Rob Eliott says. Photo/supplied
'Oh my god, you have to try this' is an often-heard quote at the festival, accompanied with the speaker pushing a plate of food at their friend, Rob Eliott says. Photo/supplied

One of the highlights this year would be the celebration of the 30-year anniversary of Peter Gordon's Sugar Club restaurant, which started in Wellington in 1986, moved to London, and can now be found in the Sky Tower in Auckland.

Tickets can be bought at www.tasteofauckland.co.nz.

There's not just food - wine, craft beer, and cocktails are available as the finishing touch to a gourmet meal. Photo/supplied
There's not just food - wine, craft beer, and cocktails are available as the finishing touch to a gourmet meal. Photo/supplied
Key things to check out include:

- Brew Street with Kapiti Cheese will include a line-up of craft brewers offering a selection of beer and cider drops, with beers matched with Kapiti cheese.

- The TSB Bank Producers Market brings together more than 14 artisan producers from across New Zealand, showcasing pickles, spreads, fine pressed oil, and more.

- The Magners Cider Bandstand will have a live music line-up put together by musician Peter Urlich.

- The special 30th anniversary of The Sugar Club opening in Wellington will have Peter Gordon joined in the kitchen by former chefs from the establishment's various NZ and UK incarnations.

- The opening night's dinner theme is "Culinary Innovation" and includes guests from the iconic Australian Restaurant group Rockpool.

- The Viva Champagne Lunch has chefs including Nic & Kelli Watt of True Food & Yoga and Nick Honeyman of Paris Butter serve their signature dishes.

- The Qantas VIP lounge is the place to be for first-class service, and gourmet treats and delicious cocktails from the Rockpool Grill. Guests will also be treated to fine wine tastings from Babich Wines who are celebrating 100 years of family wine making.