Tongariro Lodge's new executive chef Richard Atkinson has wasted no time making his mark.
Five months after being appointed to the position, he has gained a 2013 Beef and Lamb Excellence award. The lodge is one of only five restaurants in the Taupo region and the only restaurant in Turangi to attain the award.
The awards acknowledge restaurants that turn out a consistently high standard of beef and lamb cuisine.
Assessors described Richard's pan seared Hawke's Bay lamb cutlets as ``perfectly cooked to medium rare, melt in the mouth, tender and expertly trimmed'', saying the dish was ``nicely complemented'' by a flavoursome jus and garden fresh peas. His black angus fillet steak and sauce bearnaise main won acclaim for being ``very tender, lean and well seasoned with overall flavour harmony''.
Richard, who worked at top Wellington restaurant Arbitrageur as a senior chef de partie for two and a half years, came to New Zealand from the UK four years ago on a working holiday and stayed after ``falling in love with a beautiful Kiwi girl''.
The couple, who have a 1-year-old son, Jacob, moved to the Waikato to be closer to wife Danielle's family.
Richard worked briefly in Raglan before shifting to Taupo seven months ago, working as a sous chef at Tongariro Lodge before being appointed executive chef last September.
He says developing his own menus using top quality fresh produce makes the job really satisfying.
``Where we are geographically means I can get the best produce from north, south east and west.''
Where possible he uses locally grown products, including organic salad greens and herbs he hand picks from Awhi Farm and free range eggs from a local farm. Richard says attaining the 2013 Beef and Lamb Excellence award was a ``bit of a thrill'' and he intends to continue developing menus that showcase the best New Zealand produce.