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Ryman chefs take top prizes

Ryman chefs Steve Iraia and Paul Korunic have blitzed the New Zealand hospitality awards, taking the top two prizes for their skills in the kitchen.

Steve, who has been the chef at Princess Alexandra Retirement Village in Napier for 10 years, was named the winner in the senior lifestyle section of the New Zealand Hospitality Championships in Auckland at the weekend.

Steve came second in last year's competition and was delighted to go one better.

"I'm absolutely ecstatic, it was a bit like taking care of some unfinished business.

"It wasn't easy – a couple of things went wrong and a had 10 minutes of 'fudge' time allowed for in case of problems, so I plated up with only 20 seconds to spare.''

Steve had put in a lot of work perfecting his classic recipes which have been on the Ryman Delicious menu.

He'd had a huge response from his workmates back in Napier since news of his success spread.

"Everyone's been texting and they're still coming in. I did it for my workmates and I did it for Ryman, I'm ecstatic really.''

Paul Korunic was also pleased to go one better than last year, and he finished just 0.6 of a point behind Steve.

Paul, who has worked at Anthony Wilding Retirement Village in Christchurch for four years, had been planning and practising for three months.

"It's been a long haul for us, but we've got the two top positions in the country, which is a brilliant result.''

Like Steve, Paul’s event did not go without hitch, but he managed to plate up with 20 seconds to spare.

Paul is keen to come back next year to see whether he can go one higher again.

"I learned a lot and I wasn't shaking like a leaf this year. The quality of the competition seemed much higher this year and it will be harder again next year I'm sure. I'd like to give it another go.''

Steve and Paul had just 75 minutes to cook eight covers – meals for eight people – consisting of four hoki loin dishes and four dishes featuring beef cheeks.

The judges marked them on a number of factors including technical skills, food safety, food and personal presentation, as well as originality, visual appeal, use of time and wastage.

Ryman Hotel Services Manager Andrew Gibson was in Auckland to support the chefs.

"I'm just stoked. I was trying to video when they announced the winners, but when they said Steve had won I couldn't keep the camera still – it is all shaky.

Andrew said he was proud of the chefs who had put in a lot of time and effort.

The dishes they prepared had to be ones that were practical and suitable for the menu at Ryman villages.

Ryman Healthcare’s team of chefs serve up more than 10,000 meals each day to residents at 32 villages in New Zealand and Australia.

Ryman’s food is prepared fresh on site, and residents get three choices of main meals each day, including a vegetarian option.

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