Who are we to judge?

You are spoilt for choice when it comes to dining out in New Zealand, so having someone you can trust to advise you on options, someone who has ventured out on your behalf, knife and fork and chopsticks at the ready, well that’s a useful tool to have to hand. And that’s where we come in. Tonight at 8pm here at cuisine.co.nz we announce our 2019 Cuisine Good Food Awards category winners and the much-anticipated allocation of our hats. The results of tonight’s presentation will be published in our Cuisine Good Food Guide, a handy booklet that showcases our pick of the New Zealand restaurants that should be on your radar for the next year. The guide will be available along with the Cuisine January issue on sale mid-December. 

Along with the privilege and excitement of unveiling our top picks for New Zealand’s dining experiences come a lot of questions, understandably, about how we make our decisions, and why we choose some restaurants over others. So I thought I might ask and answer a few for you here and give you a little more transparency on the how and the why, with regards to the way we put together our guide.

How is the
Cuisine Good Food Guide put together?  

Across the year Cuisine reviews restaurants around the country to publish in our magazine and at cuisine.co.nz. In addition to this, we have over 40 industry experts based in various regions throughout New Zealand who make up our awards assessment team. These experts are a mix of food writers and critics, chefs and hospitality industry professionals, who eat at hundreds of restaurants over the course of the year to help us curate our selection of the very best. To be eligible for the awards a restaurant has to have been open for at least two months before an assessment, so as to ensure consistency. A significant change in direction after assessment can rule a restaurant out of the running.    


How is a restaurant selected for assessment?

Restaurants that were in the previous year’s guide are automatically included in the assessment schedule for the next year. The rest of the restaurants are nominated by our team around the country. They are encouraged to put forward restaurants that are on their personal radar as examples of the best dining experiences in their regions. During the lead-up to the awards there is a heightened focus on assessments and often a second round of judging as we determine our category winners. When choosing our restaurants we are looking for restaurants that have identified their niche and cater to their core customers superbly well. Restaurants who know who they want their customer to be. We award points for mood, décor and service, but our main focus is on the food: flavour, technique, innovation and balance. A restaurant has to score 10 out of a total of 20 points to be considered for a hat.    


Can you buy a review in Cuisine magazine or the Cuisine Good Food Guide?

Absolutely not! A restaurant has to earn a place in our guide each year. And no, our commercial partners do not influence our process in any way. Restaurants in the guide may or may not use sponsors’ products: this does not affect their rating. Our assessors headed up by Kerry Tyack pay for every meal, and are reimbursed by Cuisine. There are no free lunches. In fact, if there were a list of the people who spend the most money in New Zealand restaurants in any given 12 month period, I think my business partner and co-director Vanessa Stranan and I should be on it! Unfortunately, we don’t personally get to eat in all of the restaurants for which we foot the bill every year, however, we give it a good red hot go, whenever we can. 

How do the hats work?

Again, the hats must be earned every year. We often hear restaurants saying they have had their hats taken away from them. This is not the case. Every restaurant in the guide is assessed on its current performance. The hats can not be taken away, they are allocated as earned each year. We have made some adjustments to our hat scoring and criteria this year as outlined below.

In previous years, to be awarded one CGFA hat,  a restaurant needed to score 15, and the standard for a score of 15 is ‘very good’. For 2019 to be awarded one hat, a restaurant will need to score 16 and the standard for a score of 16 is ‘great’. A score of 18 will no longer be awarded 3 hats. For 3 hats, a restaurant will need to be considered ‘extraordinary, and approaching perfection’ with a score of 19. We do realise that this means that there will be restaurants at that 15 mark that will be disappointed this year as they will not be awarded a hat. However, it is reasonable that to be awarded a hat a restaurant should be GREAT, ‘very good’ will no longer make the cut. We have made this decision because we want the Cuisine list of hatted restaurants to truly showcase those restaurants and their teams that are at the very top of their game, and on par with a premium global dining standard.

The Cuisine Good Food Awards and the resulting Cuisine Good Food Guide not only provide much needed and respected feedback for the industry, they also showcase restaurant options across a variety of tastes and styles from casual to experimental to fine dining, along with the premium ingredients and products that New Zealand is fast becoming famous for. 

We are very grateful for the continued support of a group of premium companies that are completely committed to investing in and recognising the hard work and achievements of our New Zealand hospitality professionals. Our heartfelt thanks to, Cardrona Distillery, Epicure Trading, Estrella Damm, Kenwood, Ōra King, Pāmu, Pead PR and San Pellegrino for their crucial support. Without it, we would not have been able to proceed with the 2019 awards. 

Stay tuned to our social channels @cusinemagazine and tune in here at 8pm tonight to find out who will wear those hats! https://www.cuisine.co.nz/



You are spoilt for choice when it comes to dining out in New Zealand, so having someone you can trust to advise you on options, someone who has ventured out on your behalf, knife and fork and chopsticks at the ready, well that’s a useful tool to have to hand.

An update

We have faced some significant challenges this year with the unexpected loss of our major sponsor just as we were to start our final round of judging.