A chef with that elusive X factor

Queenstown chef Ben Batterbury, of the True South Dining Room chef, stands outside the Rees Hotel with his Beef and Lamb 2012 award plate. Photo by Olivia Caldwell.
Queenstown chef Ben Batterbury, of the True South Dining Room chef, stands outside the Rees Hotel with his Beef and Lamb 2012 award plate. Photo by Olivia Caldwell.
One of Queenstown's best chefs has been chosen as an ambassador chef in the 2012 Beef and Lamb awards.

True South Dining Room's Ben Batterbury was the first from Queenstown selected for the annual excellence awards and did so from a pool of 208 entries.

Five chefs were selected for the ambassador roles for the event, which recognises consistency and quality in the preparation and presentation of beef and lamb cuisine in restaurants nationally.

Mr Batterbury said he was pleased with the recognition.

"We don't do it for awards." When cooking meat, "we try to find the more interesting parts with the most flavour", he said.

"You go back hundreds of years and you see that people use every part of the animal." For a beef dish, Mr Batterbury picked the single-muscle rump, which he said had more flavour, because the muscle was used often. He also used the thin steak or the hanger from the diaphragm, which is often referred to as "the butcher's steak" because butchers would often keep it for themselves.

Mr Batterbury also used lamb neck fillet and shoulder.

"The shoulder has a good amount of fat. It's bad for us, but there is more flavour; it's interesting."

The key to a good steak?

"One that has lots of marbling in it."

"Don't tell people that, though, because there will be none left for my dinner." Beef and Lamb New Zealand's Jenni Dean said Mr Batterbury's Hereford prime hanger steak, Cardrona merino lamb neck, and shoulder dishes were deemed faultless by judges.

"We are looking for the X factor and his dishes certainly have that." Mrs Dean was surprised it had taken 15 years to award a Queenstown chef the accolade, given the resort is a hospitality and tourism destination.

Mr Batterbury, of England, was previously head chef of Lomonds Restaurant in Scotland, where he cooked for the King of Jordon. He has been based in Queenstown for three years and works as a chef at the True South Dining Room at the Rees Hotel.

His signature is "fresh and flavoursome" food, prepared using locally sourced seasonal ingredients.

The restaurant was named as a premier award winner in the inaugural Taste of New Zealand Awards last year.

Mr Batterbury attended the "flavours of New Zealand" show in New York earlier this year, which was watched by international media, and has made appearances on national television.

The Bristol-born chef's schedule doesn't slow down, as he has been invited to participate in the 2012 Noosa Food and Wine Festival in March, alongside 200 international chefs, winemakers, media and food personalities.

His official duties as an ambassador chef will begin on February 7 at a photo shoot, where he will cook beef and lamb dishes.

He will also make a guest appearance as a celebrity judge at the Golden Lamb Awards at the Wanaka A and P show on March 9-10.