Chef’s bid to stay king of salmon stars
‘‘My goal now is to put that pride and passion on the plate and come away with the win’’
Marc Soper has fed royalty, movie stars and presidents, so the pressure cooker environment of preparing a dish for an international judging panel doesn’t especially faze him.
The executive chef at Wharekauhau Country Lodge on Wairarapa’s southern coast has notched up a string of awards in recent years and is now hoping to hold on to his Best Ora King Dish crown, which he won last year.
As one of a crop of international chefs winging their way to Japan for the finals, Soper is the only non-Aucklander among the four Kiwis.
The winning chefs from New Zealand, Australia, North America and Japan are going to be announced in Japan later in the month.
Soper has developed an extraordinary record of awards in recent years; Wellington’s Chef of the Capital 2015 and 2016, New Zealand Chef of the Nation 2005 and 2016, and Best Ora King Dish last year.
He has also made it into the New Zealand team which has set its sights on the Culinary Olympics in Stuttgart in 2020.
The Ora King finalists have been asked to create a salmon dish with a Japanese twist, which is down to the chef’s interpretation expressed through ingredients, techniques, presentation or simply inspiration.
Soper’s dish was extremely complicated and utilised every part of the fish. It took three days to put together and the smoked bone broth alone has 18 different ingredients.
‘‘I had to get my bum off my seat and put a successful dish together to be in the running and I’m pretty humbled that I’ve been selected as a finalist and get to go to Japan. My goal now is to put that pride and passion on the plate and come away with the win, hopefully,’’ he said.
His ethos at Wharekauhau is to use as much local produce as possible and for the salmon dish he has even gone to the lengths of combing the rocky shoreline next to the estate to collected bull kelp - a traditional ingredient in Japanese cooking.
‘‘There are a lot of people in the community who are reaching out to offer their assistance with different products. Why purchase things a million miles up the other end of the country.’’