When you move to a new place, you’ve got to figure out what events are going on and, when I arrived in Christchurch in January, I was thrilled to discover that this South Island city is the home of Savour New Zealand, a foodie spectacular that happens every two years. Fortunately 2005 is one of those years and the event takes place from Friday 6 May to Sunday 8 May – dates now very firmly fixed in my diary!
Apparently the weekend is structured around suites of masterclasses with a total of four sessions per day and the choice of four classes per session. Just looking at the titles of the classes is mouth-watering – Cooking the Catch, Craving Chocolate, Knead the Dough and, one that looks especially fascinating to me because of my love of spices, Middle Eastern Magic. And that’s only four of the total sixteen!
But it is the presenters of the classes, and the chance of getting to meet them, that really intrigues. Anthony Bourdain, the enfant terrible of the New York restaurant scene is the name that jumped out at me. I remember when his first biography, Kitchen Confidential, jolted the publishing – and restaurant – scene. It was a breathless, entertaining and sometimes disgusting overview of the dirty business that is food preparation. A Cook’s Tour, his follow-up, was a wander through the food of the world in search of the perfect meal was ok but then he played his trump card and published the Les Halles Cookbook. This file of recipes, from New York’s legendary Brasserie Les Halles where he is executive chef, shows that Bourdain can not only talk the talk, but he is able to walk the walk as well. Written in Bourdain’s trademark aggressive style, the Les Halles Cookbook was an education – and proof that the man can actually do something other than eat, bitch and write about it!
Another name which stands out is that of esteemed French food expert Patricia Wells, restaurant critic for L’Express, the French news weekly and writer of many cookery books of which her first one, Bistro, is currently top of my pile of books to read. There definitely have to be some experiments tried from that book and the fact that she’s offering a class on Bistro Cooking at Savour New Zealand is an added bonus.
Stephanie Alexander‘s The Cook’s Companion has become a much-loved classic since its publication in 1996, so much so that there was even a revised and updated version released last year. Admittedly it’s a tome but it is a very valuable one, an A-Z of ingredients and what to do with them. She’s an Australian food writer who is justifiably acclaimed as Melbourne’s queen of cuisine. I’m thoroughly enjoying her A Shared Table, a book about the food and food culture of Australia and where it draws its culinary inspiration from – many parallels to be made there with New Zealand cuisine.
And that’s just three of the presenters – some of the others are rising young chef Melissa Perello, from San Francisco; New Zealand baker extraordinaire Dean Brettschneider, author of the award-winning and fascinating Baker – the Best of International Baking from Australia and New Zealand; Pegasus Bay winemaker Matthew Donaldson – Pegasus Bay is located near here, at Waipara, and make some of the most deliciously complex Sauvignon/Semillon that I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting; and one of Australia’s most innovative and influential chefs, Greg Malouf, whose passion for the flavours and aromas of his Lebanese heritage have helped him to create a modern and unique Middle Eastern cuisine.
With all thats on offer, there’s not going to be much time for writing over the weekend but I hope to post here afterwards about the food and wine and people that I’ve had the pleasure of encountering during Savour New Zealand. Just two weeks to go – the count down starts here!