Back for its sixth year Waikato Food Inc’s 2020 Tino Reka te Kai Matariki Dish Challenge is once again putting the Waikato and New Zealand cuisine on the map. 

Each winter, local chefs sharpen their knives and create a dish celebrating both Matariki (Maori New Year) and Waikato produce.

The coveted Marty Wong created trophy has graced the walls of some of the Waikato’s best eateries and it is expected the competition will be just as strong this year.

Open to restaurants and cafes alike, this years challenge runs from the 8th of June until the 14th of July. So get out and get a taste of the mighty Waikato on a plate this Matariki season! Make sure you share your taste experiences on social media with the hashtag #matarikidishchallenge2019

2019 Finalists and Winners

2019 Winners

Waikato culinary stars shine

Each winter the Waikato’s culinary stars shine with the Waikato Food Inc Matariki Dish Challenge. Now in its fifth year, this highly contested challenge tests local eateries’ service, storytelling, sourcing of local ingredients as well as their kitchens’ culinary talent.

Esther Burnett from Waikato Food Inc says, “The Matariki Dish Challenge is a natural vehicle for the values and vision of Waikato Food Inc.” Waikato Food Inc is a not for profit organisation with the goal of raising the profile and calibre of the food and hospitality industry in the Waikato. “The Matariki Dish Challenge,” Esther says, “both inspires and challenges our local food heroes while inviting the public to engage in a fundamental cultural tradition, that of Matariki. The public literally experiences the stories of Matariki through food.”

The judges commented that the calibre of entries this year was the best yet with just half a point determining those that made it through as finalists and those that didn’t.

The Lucky Finalists were...

Hayes Common and Alpino

Alpha Street Kitchen & Bar taking out the top prize.

Owner Fiona Massey says, “We have hung the amazing and sizeable trophy on the wall and it’s definitely getting talked about! The team are thrilled and really proud.”

Fiona says she loves the Matariki Dish Challenge because “it’s a chance for the team to challenge themselves and do something creative. It’s also great that it is not just a cooking competition—it involves the whole team.”

Chef Harry Williams says, “We wanted to create a dish that celebrates the scope of the Waikato region, incorporating two coasts and highlighting how bountiful it is, especially at this time of year.”

The dish: Wild spat Coromandel oysters were the hero having been sous vide with butter, horopito and pikopiko and served in the shell on a bed of pickled seaweed; the oysters were served with a manuka-smoked potato foam. Then the Raglan kahawai was made into ‘fish floss’ and served with fry-bread.

As the dish was brought to the table, a horopito leaf was smouldering as an offering to the seven sisters of the Matariki constellation.

“It’s hard to say what won the judges over,” says Fiona, “but I can tell you what sold it to our customers: many people notice the pride, passion and knowledge the team demonstrated during the presentation of the dish—it wasn’t hard as we do live in a wonderful part of the country.”

Matariki Dish Challenge 2019 Competing Eateries