Junior sous chef at Copthorne Wellington’s One80 Restaurant, Maxime Gnojczak was awarded silver at the Chef of the Capital competition at the Wellington Culinary Fare 2016.

Originally from the seaside in the south of France, Gnojczak enjoys working with seafood and said it was a major culinary influence growing up.

Based on this influence as an entrée, Gnojczak created Ora King Salmon Tataki with Butternut textures on the side. A Japanese inspired dish, the rich and fatty Ora King was served just seared and belly grilled with red miso. The butternut was tempura, roasted, and wasabi pickled, in a spicy yuzu ponzu sauce and butternut seeds paste.

Gnojczak gained his inspiration from the greater Wellington region.

“I made sure to highlight the Wellington region all the way from Kapiti through to the Wairarapa and the slightly north part of the South Island,” he said.

He matched his entree with Garage Project Beer, a pale gold lager with a crisp, clean palate, rich tropical fruit aromas and tight champagne bubbles.

The main dish was Preston’s Lamb Canon lamb rack, a loin of lamb seared and served with a nutty crumble, confit beetroot, fondant potato, lamb cheek, baby turnips, smoked yoghurt and lamb jus. The beverage match was Te Tera Pinot Noir 2014. The Te Tera exudes a nose of cherry and berry, and hints of toasty oak. The fruit is framed by firm acid and leaves a silky feel in the mouth.

Dessert, Wellington Chocolate Factory Wonders, consisted of caramelised persimmon, a crispy 50 percent coconut milk chocolate base, 70 percent chilli lime and nut cremeux, 77 percent Samoa Opaline, fresh feijoa and Gelissimo Feijoa Gelato. The beverage match was Panhead Hardtail Henry, Oaked Stout. The aroma is sweet with chocolate and coffee notes. The taste is oakey and sweet with roast malt coming through, resulting in a dry roast finish.

This year was Gnojczak’s first entry in the competition.

“This year I decided to challenge myself a bit more. I really enjoy the kind of pressure you get. The whole process of preparing it beforehand is not as intensive as opening a restaurant, but I worked really hard to make a dish.”

He said he may consider entering again next year.

“If I have the chance I will try again as it is a great opportunity to go outside the kitchen, go outside your comfort zone and try your best.

“I’m really thankful to One80 Restaurant. They have all been absolutely fantastic.”

Some of the local suppliers used included Bidvest Fresh, Ora King Salmon, Preston’s Master Butchers, Zany Zeus, Wellington Chocolate Factory, Gelissimo Gelato and Garage Project. All vegetables and fruits used were locally sourced.

All photo credits to Jeff McEwan, Capture Studios Wellington.