DOES the thought of tripe chips set your taste buds tingling? Do you dream of veal spleen dumplings, or how about a dish of delicious crumbed bull's testicles?

Award-winning Rotorua chef-photographer Gerhard Egger has exactly the recipe for you, conjuring them up in a glossy cookery book that's chocker with meaty treats for beef-loving carnivores.

Entitled A Cut Above it's produced in association with AngusPure, the national organisation devoted to guaranteeing the Angus cut on your plate's as good as it gets.

And fear not, non-offal lovers, only a tiny portion of this 232-page gastronomic publication served up with lashings of Gerhard's outstanding photography, is devoted to innards.

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Bolstered with contributions by five of the country's top Angus breeders from the far north to the deep south, Austrian-born Gerhard's come up with a slew of recipes for every part of the mighty beast, bone marrow included.

Some dishes are exotically foreign; others as Kiwi as they come; overnight roast and boil up with puha included.

It's not Gerhard's first culinary-themed book; he and wife Henrietta (Henri) "my administrator, my organiser, my people person", were the brains behind Volcanic Kitchen, published in 2012. A good portion of the recipes featured came from local identities; others were straight from Gerhard's pantry of inventive ideas.

The work, a fundraiser for Te Whakapono Health Trust, won the Best Photography Cookbook for New Zealand at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Paris and was a finalist in the fundraiser division for New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific. The Eggers' reactions to the accolades are a downbeat "pretty pleasing". They aren't the types to trumpet their success stories, they'd rather talk about their contributors.

"It was a wonderful book to work on, the Maori people in particular were so lovely and helpful, it was fantastic to go to the marae and cook in all that humour, there's rarely any in commercial kitchens," the professional chef laments.

A bit Gordon Ramsayish? we suggest. "Indeed," Gerhard confirms "I've worked in kitchens where knives have flown".

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The Eggers are an impressive team. They've been together since meeting at Mt Cook's then Hermitage Hotel in 1981. Gerhard was one of its contracted European chefs, Henri was trying her hand at "hospo".

They travelled together extensively, marrying in Austria in 1984 "because I [Henri] didn't have a work permit, much to my parents' horror".

Four years later they returned to New Zealand, both signing on with the national airline, Henri as an international flight attendant and Gerhard to develop menus for first class passengers on the slew of airlines Air New Zealand catered for. The food had to be top notch, no international culinary clashes was a given.

Gerhard loved the work but when the airline "regrouped" in 1993 he was waved farewell. "It was the first time someone had given me money to stop working [redundancy], I said 'yahoo' and went dry stock farming at Ngakuru."

Henri remained in the air, flying the world as a Ngakuru-based commuter. What about all that accumulated jet lag? "You never get over it, it's only when you get out of it [the job] you start to feel what normal is."

Henri grounded herself when daughter Luisa arrived in millennium year.

The couple saw the 160ha they bought advertised at Field Days; having worked at Rotorua's former International Hotel they knew the area and loved it.

They expanded to 270ha before selling up and returning to Auckland, buying a dessert and cake manufacturing business out of receivership.

In a bit over a year they'd turned a profit and were back in Rotorua. For the past decade they've lived on a Paradise Valley lifestyle block; the Ngongotaha stream's their boundary fence, it's not a cliche that Gerhard calls it his "paradise".

With more time to himself he pursued his ambition to become a photographer.
"I'd developed a love for it at school, wanted to be a photographer but my parents said it wasn't a profession it was a hobby, as a hobby it kept us poor."

Nowadays it's a nice little earner for the Eggers. From initially taking wedding pictures and group shots of kindy kids, his professionalism's spiralled. He regularly supplies his library of stock images to the biggies of the photo journalism word; Getty Images, the Bill Gates-owned Corbis and Photo NZ are regular customers, although Gerhard retains the copyright.

"They're used all over the world, I saw one of my pictures in Munich recently, it was a kiwi sign in Whakatane."

The Eggers travel regularly and widely. With his widowed mother still in Austria they visit at least every second year "combining family holidays with a bit of work".

A Cut Above had him on the road for several months this year.

Putting his chef's toque on he admits he's not one to follow recipes. "They aren't written down, they're in my head, I become a chemist, everything is tried and tested, weighed and reweighed until I'm happy it's in the bag and I can convert it into weights, measurements and methods."

Despite the precision he claims to have absorbed the Kiwi Number 8 wire mentality.
A Cut Above's been produced in eight months "from go to whoa".

When he's absorbed in a project Gerhard brooks no interruptions. "I don't answer the phone, I get really, really intense, I just want to get it done then refresh."

That said, is there another project simmering away?

"About January or February I'll get bored and dream up something else - at present it's a blank canvass."

GERHARD AND HENRIETTA (HENRI) EGGER
Born: Gerhard, Austria, 1957; Henri: Malaya, 1963 "My father was a naval office on loan from New Zealand."

Education: Gerhard: Austrian primary and high schools, apprenticeship in the Tyrol. Henri: Glenfield and Takapuna Primaries, Thames High.

Family: Daughter Luisa. Gerhard's mother in Austria, Henri's (Coral Day) in Rotorua.

Interests: Gerhard: Cooking, photography, farming, travel; Henri: Reading, travel, people, "a little bit" of gardening.

Personal Philosophies: Gerhard: "You can do anything provided you work hard at it." Henri: "Never have regrets; never look back."


This is the final Our People for 2014, the series will return next year.