Create an event to celebrate the bountiful flavours of the Bay of Plenty and engage the food-loving community

Saltwater Seafood Grill & Oyster Bar, Mount Maunganui

Three leading chefs and three outstanding young chefs pair up for a culinary attack of the snack. Alex Smith paired with Perrin Yates, Sanish Dhungana with Neil Sapitula and Dipesh Lama with Ian Harrison

When Cuisine is asked to come up with an event concept we don’t just turn up to read out the menu. So an opportunity to work with the the teams at Tourism Bay of Plenty and Flavours of Plenty had me wondering what event we might bring to this fantastic festival – something that would tell the story about the region and the many behind-the-scenes layers that create a delicious experience.

I eat for a living, I eat out a LOT and I love a good chef’s snack. The snack – or canapé – is sometimes the best part of a restaurant meal, a glimpse inside the mind of the chef that results in that one perfect bite. So, also thinking about how important it is to encourage and inspire young, up-and-coming chefs in the region, I wondered what would happen if we teamed up three incredible chefs who I believe are absolutely the ones to watch in the Bay of Plenty – Neil Sapitula of Solera and Saltwater Seafood Grill, Ian Harrison of Sugo, and Perrin Yates from Saltwater, Deckchair Café and the Sundowner Beachfront Bar – to mentor three young, emerging chefs and battle it out to create the perfect chef’s snack.

The room was packed with fashionable foodies, DJ Ayesha was pumping out the sounds and our chefs did not disappoint. Dipesh Lama chef de partie at Deckchair, Alex Smith commis chef at Fife Lane Kitchen & Bar and Sanish Dhungana chef de partie at Picnicka Bar & Grill delivered 12 outrageously good snacks with the support of their mentor chefs and the talented team at Saltwater. An array of glorious local produce and products was showcased throughout this event, from seafood to venison, exotic mushrooms, truffles, goat, poultry, honey, spectacular figs and cheese.

The aim of the game was to create the perfect bite of the Bay of Plenty and boy, did they deliver. The Island beers, Dabblers gin cocktails, Te Kano Estate wines and Antipodes Sparkling water were flowing, and the crowd was primed and ready to taste each chef’s creation as they watched these unique snacks come together at the pass.


Judge’s Choice Award: Alex Smith with her snack entitled The Life of a Fat Guy Fun-Guy.
People’s Choice Award: Sanish Dhungana’s venison tartare


When Alex Smith was paired with mentor Perrin Yates for this contest they quickly established a good collaboration. “I told him what I wanted to do, he told me what wouldn’t work and then we compromised! But, Perrin was very good at letting me have my say and doing my thing and I loved the opportunity to run my own food.”

Alex worked closely with Perrin to develop two snacks to present to the judges. The weeks of preparation and recipe development paid off on the day when, cheered on by her mum and aunties, Alex won the judge’s choice award with her dish entitled The Life of a Fat Guy Fun-Guy (a tribute to mushroom grower Tony of Fat Guy Fungi) which cleverly showcased enoki, oyster and pekepeke kiore mushrooms and demonstrated some sharp techniques to bring out their textural and flavour contrasts.

After two years at Fife Lane (and a promotion to junior chef de partie), Alex is familiar with the tempo of restaurant service, but the competition environment gave her the experience of working with new chefs with different approaches and attitudes to her norm and she stepped right up to the pressures of the contest.

“Perrin showed me I was allowed to use my voice and he really supported me in that. I think that usually in the kitchen I am really just following orders to the best of my ability but in this situation I got a great opportunity to think about how I wanted things done. Perrin was very good at giving little tips and tricks, ways to stand out and be memorable.”

A move to Wellington is planned though it’s too soon to share the details. So keep an eye on this young chef as we’re sure she’s going places.

Huge thanks to our chefs and to Loretta Crawford and Suzie Spear from Tourism Bay of Plenty, Rae Baker of Rebel Female, Stacey Jones from Flavours of Plenty and Nick Potts and Jay Thomas from Saltwater for pulling this complicated and exciting event together.