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Monday, 11 December 2017 06:50 pm

New Zealand eateries could be ready for a Michelin rating

AWARD-WINNER: Logan Brown owner, Steve Logan, is proud of his restaurant's accolades. IMAGE: Matthew Lau

AWARD-WINNER: Logan Brown owner, Steve Logan, is proud of his restaurant’s accolades. IMAGE: Matthew Lau

MICHELIN stars should be awarded in New Zealand, according to restaurateurs in Wellington.

Logan Brown is aiming to be recognised on a global scale after another multi-award winning year.

They won the MiNDFOOD Visa Wellington On a Plate Award 2014 for best menu, and attained Two Hats in the Cuisine Good Food Guide.

“When other people acknowledge us, especially an expert overseas like Australian chef Alla Wolf-Tasker, it’s pretty outstanding.  Of course we’re delighted,” says owner Steve Logan.

“I hear all the time from people coming from overseas who say our restaurant should be having one star from Michelin.”

The Michelin Guide is a hallmark of fine dining quality, awarding one, two or three stars to exceptional restaurants around the world.

“I have no idea why the Michelin reviewers don’t come over here, I don’t know if it’s anything to do with the quality of our food here, we’re just a long way away in a little country.”

No restaurant from New Zealand or Australia has ever been awarded a Michelin star.

Logan believes his restaurant fits into that category because it is the only eatery outside of Auckland to have received Two Hats in the Cuisine Good Food Guide for the second consecutive year.

“But also, if you can get recognition on top of that from a respected organisation like Cuisine magazine and respected judges, then that’s a massive pat on the back.”

Michelin states: “One star indicates a very good restaurant in its category, offering cuisine prepared to a consistently high standard. A good place to stop on your journey.”

YOUNG TALENT: Regnar Christensen, 27, has worked for highly-respected Two-Star chef Marcus Wareing. IMAGE: Ortega Fish Shack Restaurant & Bar

YOUNG TALENT: Regnar Christensen, 27, has worked for highly-respected Two-Star chef Marcus Wareing. IMAGE: Ortega Fish Shack Restaurant & Bar

Ortega Fish Shack was only half a point away from attaining two hats themselves, and its head chef has previously spent two months in London at Michelin-starred venues.

Regnar Christensen, worked in the kitchens of St John’s, Le Gavaroche, and Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley Hotel.

“I found it interesting at Le Gavaroche, because I felt like when I was there a lot of what I saw, it wasn’t really a harmonious workplace, it was people trying to set up other people to fail.

“Marcus Wareing was an awesome leader, he’d come into the kitchen area every morning and shake everyone’s hand, ask how everyone was going, but obviously quite strict as well.”

Christensen, like Logan, believes the main reason that Michelin judges don’t come to New Zealand is geographical.

“For me, Michelin is kind of dying out, it’s quite an old-school institution set in old ways.

“The big thing now is the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants, so a lot of people look to that now instead of the Michelin guide.”

The World’s 50 Best Restaurants guide includes Australasia, but no Kiwi eateries.

Christensen says the clientele is different here to what it is in London.

“St John’s is an offal place. If you opened up a St John’s in Wellington, you’ll find it hard to keep it busy. We don’t have the population here to fill a restaurant full of offal-eaters every night.”

STAR STUDIED BACKGROUND: Adam Newell spent nearly a decade working in Michelin-starred kitchens . IMAGE: Zibibbo Restaurant & Bar

STAR STUDIED BACKGROUND: Adam Newell spent nearly a decade working in Michelin-starred kitchens . IMAGE: Zibibbo Restaurant & Bar

Adam Newell, owner of Zibibbo, also worked at Le Gavaroche under the Roux brothers for more than five years.

“Albert & Michel Roux are the godfathers of food in the UK,” Newell says.

It was there where he was classically trained in the techniques of French cookery, like former Roux protégés Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay.

He says anyone who was a chef in the UK went through Le Gavaroche or The Waterside Inn, the only other three-starred restaurant in the UK at the time.”

He also honed his skills at both The Savoy and Claridge’s in London.

Newell says he has been banging the drum for a fresh restaurant guide in New Zealand that replicates Michelin.

“The Cuisine guide is good, anything that promotes food is good. But it only goes so far.

“I think there should be a big corporation like the AA, or AMI, or Telecom, whoever puts their name behind a publication, and it becomes a food guide with anonymous reviewers.”

Simon Gault’s Shed 5 head chef, Geoff Ngan, also has a Michelin award background, and agrees with Newell.

“I think reviewers should be totally incognito.

“Especially with a small food family that we have in New Zealand, they know most of the writers. You would adjust what you do to suit, and I just think that’s not right.”

However, Ngan says the important thing is for everyday diners to be able to trust the rating system.

“I’ve been to places with AA rosettes, and it was absolute crap, I sent the meal back twice.

WHAT A CATCH!: Geoff Ngan was awarded a Bib Gourmand from Michelin for dishing up three-courses for under €40 in Edinburgh. IMAGE: Shed 5 Restaurant & Bar

WHAT A CATCH!: Geoff Ngan was awarded a Bib Gourmand from Michelin for dishing up three-courses for under €40 in Edinburgh. IMAGE: Shed 5 Restaurant & Bar

“A lot of these rating systems are like horoscopes. You can believe it if you want to believe it. At the end of the day, you’ve got to go in and try it yourself.”

He says there is merit in the Cuisine Good Food Guide, and the ones that received hats are good restaurants.

“Is three hats comparable to two Michelin stars? I don’t think so.”

After recommendation from Martin Wishart, Ngan landed a job at Duck’s at Le Marché Noir in Edinburgh.

It was there where Ngan was awarded a Bib Gourmand from Michelin, which is an award for exceptional food offered at a reasonable price.

He says he is not surprised that New Zealand is yet to receive a Michelin rating.

“I think the Michelin criteria has changed a great deal as well A long time ago it was a real feat to get one Michelin star, I think they’re using the guide more as a tool now.

“I’ve been to Nobu in London, and I was thoroughly disappointed.  But I went to Fat Duck, three Michelin stars, and I loved it.”

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