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Great Potato Challenge finalists announced

October 3, 2008

Great Potato Challenge finalists announced

News release

Leading chefs from around the country submitted their best potato dish recipe in the “Great Potato Challenge,” as part of the 2008 activities run in New Zealand for the United Nations’ International Year of the Potato. Three finalists have been announced and will cook for a judges’ panel on October 20 at CHATS, the Manukau Institute of Technology’s catering and hospitality school in Auckland.

The finalists are: Michael Van de Elzen from award-winning Molten restaurant of Mt Eden, Auckland, for his “potato boulangere”; Michael Sullivan from Sepia, the premier restaurant of Rydges Hotel in Christchurch, for his “trio of potato, tasting plate” featuring potato and leek soup, herb gnocchi cassoulet and potato and macadamia nut croquette; and Eugene Sokolovski from renowned Abbey Bar and Kitchen in Greenlane, Auckland, for his “smoked potato cake”.

“The hospitality and food sectors really embraced the challenge, and the entries we received were of an exceptionally high calibre. The potato is often referred to as a ‘humble’ vegetable, but the quality of these entries tells a different story. The cook-off will be a great opportunity to celebrate the potato and showcase just how creative and versatile a vegetable it is,” says Challenge organiser Glenda Gourley.

The dishes will be judged by acclaimed Chefs Ross Hannah and Andy Gibb, as well as Catherine Bell, Editorial Director of Dish magazine and Johann Wohlmuther, Head of Catering and Hospitality for Manukau Institute of Technology. Chef Paul Jobin is also involved in the judging process. The winning dish will be announced at the cook-off, and will be featured on the menu at the International Year of the Potato Gala Dinner held at SKYCITY on November 7.


Each finalist will receive a Chef’s Toolbox prize pack, a subscription to Dish magazine and Fisher and Paykel white ware.


As well as a competition to find the best main potato dish over $20, the Challenge also had a category for potato dishes under $20. The 10 winners’ recipes will feature in the Great Potato Challenge Recipe Collection 2008 cook book, along with the cook-off finalists’ recipes, which will be released in November.

The winners in that category are: John Campbell, Squid Catering (Saffron potato curry with sautéed chicken and kaffir lime leaves); Shane Higginson, Basalt (Paprika Spiced Potato Goulash); Michele Campbell, Chill on Northcroft (Spicy Potato Fritters); Gordon Campbell, Peter Snell Youth Village (Camp Style Potatoes); Lynfield College, DCAFE (Crispy potato vegetable stack with proscuitto and a trio of cheeses served with beetroot chutney); Tony Smith, Crowne Plaza, Christchurch (Potatoes braised with leeks, bacon and fresh garden herbs); Martin Harrap, Indoor Dining (Baked potatoes for brunch); Mark Brady (Fish pie); Martyn Brown, Snowplanet; (Urenika, kumara and karengo chowder); Kathryn Taylor, Finger Food Catering Company (Itsy bitsy stuffed potatoes).

The highly commended entrants in that category are: Steve Barton, Ellerslie Convention Centre (Potato and smoked salmon salad); Michael Van de Elzen, Liquid Molten (Truffle mash with fat chips); Robert Cullen, Escape Café & Wine Bar (Seared tarakihi with olive crushed potatoes and sauce romesco); CPIT, Visions Restaurant (Lamb shanks with colcannon and gremolata).

The Challenge was open to all chefs working in restaurants, cafeterias or cafes around the country.

International Year of the Potato

The United Nations has declared 2008 as the International Year of the Potato. The UN chose to focus the world’s attention on potatoes because they are a vital source of nutrition in developing countries where hunger and poverty are always present.

The Potato Product Group is running a huge range of activities around the country to celebrate International Year of the Potato. A dedicated website has been set up at which outlines a calendar of events in 2008, and provides a wealth of free potato resources, from posters to recipes to images and potato icons.

The Great Potato Challenge judges

Andy Gibb is Executive Chef at V Base and the Christchurch Convention Centre, the Town Hall, AMI and Westpac Stadiums. He is President of the Christchurch branch of the New Zealand Chefs Association and was Assistant Manager of the New Zealand Culinary Team, which competed successfully at the American Culinary Classic in Chicago and at the Food Hotel Asia Culinary Challenge in Singapore.

Ross Hannah is Executive Sous Chef, SKYCITY Convention Centre. Ross trained at AUT and began his working career at the Sheraton Auckland. He spent six years working overseas in some of the best kitchens of the world including Glen Eagles Golf Course and The Dorchester in London. Ross is a qualified culinary competition judge holding unit 21855.

Catherine Bell is Editorial Director of Dish Magazine. She has won numerous awards, including Editor of the Year and Magazine of the Year. Catherine ran the successful Epicurean Workshop cooking school and cooks store for 17 years. She is a recipient of a Julia Child's grant and studied in France.

Paul Jobin runs his own consultancy 'Food by Paul Jobin' and is a part time lecturer at the Culinary Institute of New Zealand. He is a popular demonstrator and a resident chef on 'April in the afternoon' His first cookbook "A Pinch of Salt" is due out in November.

Johann Wohlmuther is head of CHATS, the catering and hospitality school at Auckland’s Manukau Institute of Technology and is well respected in the food and beverage industries.


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