A night out with the next generation of top Kiwi chefs proves a delicious experience.

There's noting quite like meeting the new kids on the block. The Next Crew dinner, held in Auckland last month, was the brainchild of Hayden McMillan of Tribeca and Nick Honeyman of Dallow's. It showcased the talents of some of Auckland's most exciting but lesser-known chefs.

McMillan and Honeyman were joined by Cocoro's Makato Tokuyama, Sam Clark of Cable Bay Vineyards and the Foodstore's Mark Southon.

The five-course feast got off to a cracking start with an arrival cocktail of rum served in a terracotta plant pot, complete with chocolate "soil" floating on the ice cubes. That was soon followed by soluble sushi canapes served in shot glasses.

Other highlights were Honeyman's venison cupcake revolution - wild venison layered with eggplant and a collar of brik (a kind of pastry made from paper-thin leaves).

McMillan wrapped up the night with ceviche of young coconut covered in a snowfall of fresh and freeze-dried coconut, with apple and Red Bull jelly.

Light-as-air freeze-dried fruit is the latest craze on restaurant menus, offering mouthfuls of concentrated flavour with a satisfying, disintegrating crunch. And while one of the biggest food trends making a comeback is beautifully decorated cupcakes, chefs are adding a twist with the rediscovery of the good old household dehydrator.

This appliance has endless applications. Try drying out rinsed capers to make a "popcorn" garnish for pasta. I like re-hydrating dried figs in licorice tea, blending them until smooth and spreading the paste on non-stick paper cut to fit the dehydrator. You end up with a fig fruit leather that can be cut into shapes or ground to a powder for dusting over fish.

Another big fan of the dehydrator is star Kiwi chef Ben Shrewry, who owns Atticus in Melbourne. He uses it to dry paper-thin strips of crispy beef bresaola to finish a dish of pressed ox tongue, hibachi-grilled Wagyu and walnut milk.

Get into the kitchen and have a play!

* Click the link for details on The Next Crew.