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Tea gastronomy wins gold for young chef and charity auction

For Immediate Release September 21

Tea gastronomy wins gold for young chef and charity auction at Euro

Young Auckland chef Chris Webb and his waiter partner Leanne Ayre have won the New Zealand section of the Dilmah Real High Tea Challenge 2012 with an array of teas, tea cocktails and mocktails and gastronomic delights.

Webb, who is a junior sous chef at Kermadec Ocean Fresh, created a menu for a contemporary high tea that included food like smoked lemon and poppy seed macaroons with salmon and goat’s cheese. He carried the macaroons into the presentation room on a plate, smoke swirling under a glass lid. He lifted the lid and the smell of the delicious tea smoked food filled the room.

That was just one of the memorable moments in a day where 11 teams from through the country competed to create and serve to judges their interpretation of a contemporary high tea.

There were scones and sandwiches, but in the main the food items presented were works of art. They were cleverly matched with carefully brewed hot teas, or tea cocktails and mocktails.

The challenge was judged by Dilhan Fernando of Dilmah, Peter Kuruvita of Flying Fish Restaurant in Sydney and Black Hat chef Bernd Uber. The New Zealand event follows similar events in major centres of Australia and the challenge will go throughout the world.

Webb and Ayre won a trip for two to Sri Lanka and a gold medal in the event, which was endorsed by the World Association of Chef Societies (WACS).

While the Kermadec team was the overall winner, Volker Marecek and Benjamin McManus of The Langham Auckland and John Kelleher and Nicole Gomes of AUT University’s school of hospitality and tourism also won gold medals. Four other teams won silver and four more won bronze medals.

The challenge is aimed at experienced chefs and food and beverage professionals, although a second one for consumers is being held online. The AUT team was the first school that has entered. Merrill J Fernando, the Founder of Dilmah, and his son Dilhan were so impressed with that – and while Kelleher is a professional now lecturing in culinary arts, Gomes is still a student – that they too were awarded a trip for two to Sri Lanka.

The two teams will get to study tea gastronomy at the Dilmah School of Tea, which also works together with L’Institut Paul Bocuse in France.

Tea gastronomy is trending internationally. In Auckland one hotel’s afternoon tea is constantly booked out and another that offered a deal on an online voucher site was surprised to have 2000 teas booked in two hours alone.

But tea gastronomy is not just about high tea. New Zealand master chef Simon Gault took 150 people on tea inspired gastronomic journey at his Euro Restaurant in Auckland on Wednesday night (Ed note: September 19).

The five course dinner included tea smoked caprese, wagyu tea gazpacho, greenpepper corn and foiegras icecream with Earl Grey tea candyfloss, Sri Lankan chicken curry and sencha green tea panna cotta with mandarin tea sorbet.

Gault hosted the dinner to help raise funds for the MJF Charitable Foundation, which was established by Dilmah founder Merrill J Fernando. When Gault went to Sri Lanka for the Dilmah Chef and the Teamaker Challenge two years ago he was so moved by the children and what the foundation was doing to help people that he pledged to help raise funds for a project.

The ChariTea Dinner, which included an auction of items like a trip for two to Sri Lanka, a 10 course degustation for eight people at The Chef’s Table with Simon Gault and an Audi race track driving experience, raised just over $50,000.

The money will be divided between a scholarship for a trainee New Zealand chef to go to Sri Lanka and the development of a MJF Foundation culinary centre in Sri Lanka, expected to open next March. The centre will help train people who are disadvantaged in some way to get a job in the hospitality sector so that they can look after themselves and their families. Simon Gault, the trainee chef and the Real HiighTea Challenge winners will visit the centre.

Merrill J Fernando, who was in New Zealand for the tea gastronomy events, thanked the diners for their generosity and consumers for their continuing support for his single origin, Ceylon tea. He said that support allows him to help Sri Lankan people in more than 100 projects in Sri Lanka every year as well as support the children of his 1400 plantation and plant workers through their education.
Hospice NZ chairman Wilf Marley thanked Merrill Fernando for his continued support of hospice by providing free Dilmah tea to all hospices throughout the country every year.


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