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Island inspired cuisine takes top honours

September 2008

Island inspired cuisine takes top honours at National competition

Wellington chefs were in force at the National Culinary Fare in Auckland this month. Wellington Institute of Technology (WelTec) brought home an impressive 17 medals in total. One of those medals, a gold, was won by Cookery tutor, Jim Collins.

In the island influence section, Jim’s challenge was to produce a dish out of the following ingredients: coconut, eggplant, papaya, any fish of his choice and spices from Papua New Guinea.
“I prepared a seared tuna loin with kelp pepper crust, sweet potato in banana leaf, papaya salsa, curried eggplant wonton, wilted baby spinach with coconut foam,” he reveals.

“It all went to plan, I presented the dish with a minute to go. I thought I’d done well. You don’t really get to see what the other competitors are making and I was just really focused on what I was doing. I executed the dish better than I ever had in my practice sessions. We’re so organised at these types of competitions, nothing is left to chance.”

As well as competing, Jim trained WelTec student, Pip Andrews who came away with two bronze medals in her first competition. “She was up against the chef of the nation and got the same mark which was a great effort for her first go at it.”

“It really makes you proud to compete alongside your students and see them succeed. Our students have only been cooking for one year and are competing against second year students and industry chefs. All the tutors were really pleased with how the students performed - they’ve been a great bunch this year.”

As the winner of the Island Influence section, sponsored by the Pacific Island Trade and Investment Commission, Jim not only took away top honours and a gold medal, but also a prize of $1000 worth of travel to any Pacific Island. This is the second time he has competed in and won the competition – he won in 2006 and took away the title and a trip to Vanuatu.

Jim is planning on heading to Fiji with his prize winnings. It won’t be his first time, but he has a passion for the pacific and for island cuisine. “The great thing about chefs is that we are our own little family. There’s a special bond between chefs. When I was teaching in Bali earlier this year there was a mutual respect and it didn’t seem to be a problem that they all didn’t speak English. Cookery is like its own language.”


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