Chef to bureaucrats: ‘Burger off’
New Zealand’s oldest licensed premises has pulled a burger that’s been the cornerstone of its menu – blaming the move on bureaucratic red tape gone mad.
Dan Fraser, executive chef at the Duke of Marlborough restaurant in the Bay of Islands, was left stewing after a visit from a Ministry for Primary Industries inspector on Thursday.
New food preparation guidelines from MPI state mincemeat and liver needs to be cooked at high temperatures for a longer amount of time than previously, to avoid contamination.
Fraser said the new rules were a raw deal and will now prevent him serving his signature burger, The Governor’s Burger, which features a medium-rare beef mince patty.
‘‘Occasionally we get Americans that come in and want it more rare, or English that come in and want it more well-cooked, and we accommodate them, but now we can’t any more. Basically, the ministry is telling us how our customers need to eat their food.’’
MPI food and beverage manager Sally Johnston said the new rules
The ministry is telling us how our customers need to eat their food. Dan Fraser, executive chef at the Duke of Marlborough
didn’t entirely ban medium-rare meat – but chefs would have to change their cooking techniques. ‘‘It is possible to cook a medium-rare burger safely, it just means that they need to think about the processes that they are using to do that. It might not be necessarily possible to do that on a barbecue or grill.’’
She suggested sous vide methods of cooking instead – what used to be called boil-in-the-bag.
‘‘Who the f... wants a sous vide burger?’’, Fraser said.
The new rules were drawn up by a bureaucrat and not a chef, he said. They meant a beef mince patty would always be ‘‘rubbery and devoid of flavour’’.
Johnston insisted they were necessary. ‘‘People have died from undercooked burgers, there is a genuine food safety risk here, we’re not doing this to take the fun out of food.’’
The new MPI guidelines will affect 5000 restaurants around the country. The template says all minced meat, poultry, and chicken livers should be cooked thoroughly as they are ‘‘likely to be contaminated with bugs’’.
Other meats can be served rare, but must be seared before serving.
Duke owner Anton Haagh agreed the new rules would cause problems.
‘‘It’s sad, there are now some quite famous dishes from around the world that we can no longer give to customers.’’
Johnston admitted some restaurants might have issues with the new rules. She said the 2014 Food Act allowed some leeway for chefs to write their own food control plans, but they would need to assessed by an expert and would cost the restaurant ‘‘quite a bit extra’’.
Fraser said he was told he could apply to prove The Governor was safe, but at the cost of ‘‘thousands of dollars’’.
Restaurant manager Kelsey Benefield tucks in to the popular medium-rare Governor’s Burger at the Duke of Marlborough in Russell.
The Ministry for Primary Industries insists it’s not trying to take the fun out of food but new regulations could doom medium-rare meat patties.