Chef to bu­reau­crats: ‘Burger off’

Sunday Star-Times - - FRONT PAGE - NI­COLE LAW­TON

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.

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