The best of the best at the sixth annual regional Signature Dish competition were announced at the Hawke's Bay Opera House last night.
Taste Cornucopia's James Beck won the formal category of the competition with his dish Taste Hawke's Bay; The Rocky Road, which showcased some of the best meat, seafood and produce the region had to offer.
Food Hawke's Bay general manager Jane Libby said the dish's flavour, balance and seasoning were some of the best she had tasted. "The food on the plate is completely out of a culinary master class - a great representation of Hawke's Bay produce," Ms Libby said.
The win meant Mr Beck had now won all three categories of the competition, including café, casual and now formal.
Mr Beck said he entered the formal category to showcase what his cafe was doing on Thursday and Friday nights. "We want to show you can have affordable, top quality food in Hastings, and that's pretty cool," Mr Beck said.
First time participant, Pacifica Restaurant of Napier, triumphed in the casual category with its Asparagus Tortellini with a Parmesan crusted Quail Egg. Chef Jeremy Rameka said he was delighted to do so well on his first outing in the competition.
The hotly contested café category this year belonged to Bay Espresso, Karamu Road, with their Gingered Pork Blessed with Bay Espresso served alongside a homemade lemonade.
The cafe's Sri Lankan chef, Dulhari De Silva, said it was the first competition she had entered. "It's a real surprise to me. I chose the dish because everyone told me they loved it," Ms De Silva said.
Thirty-seven restaurants entered the competition this year, which had run for the past six weeks.
More than 7000 regional signature dishes were sampled, with over 40,000 diners at participating restaurants.
The winners were decided by a mystery panel of local and out-of-town judges, among them food editor of Dish magazine, Claire Aldous.
"The quality of ingredients used in the dishes was not only impeccable but when combined with the creativity of the respective chefs, produced meals that truly showcased the region," she said. "The standard of food and service I encountered over the three days makes Hawke's Bay one of the leaders in the NZ food and hospitality industries."