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Flying Trestles chef Carwyn Powell credits his success to the "kindness of friends and family" who helped him win a United Kingdom scholarship, which took his cooking career to new heights. In this week's Cuisine, Mr Powell, often found at the Snow Farm in Wanaka or looking after the Auckland arm of the catering company, shares his recipe for carrot, orange and caraway soup, a perfect winter warmer.
However, after a friend put his name forward for a cooking scholarship in the United Kingdom, which he won, his parents paid his air fare, keen for him to make the most of the "opportunity of a lifetime".
That it was, with Mr Powell securing a spot with the Adnam's Hotel group in Suffolk, kick-starting a cooking career in which he has worked in gastro pubs in the United Kingdom, restaurants and super yachts in the south of France, and cafes and hotels in New Zealand.
A chance encounter with a Flying Trestles truck at Rippon Vineyard in Wanaka many years later piqued his interest and led him to approach the busy company for a job.
His potential was recognised and he was snapped up. Within days, he found himself driving the company's catering truck to remote Mt Nicholas Station, where he was asked to cook up some of the biggest crayfish he had seen.
"I could only fit one crayfish in the pot, they were that big, but from that day, I was hooked.
"The adventure of location catering can't be beaten.
"That was eight years ago, and since then we've done some exciting stuff in some of the most amazing locations, including weddings, events, functions, TV and film work throughout New Zealand, Asia and the Pacific Islands, working on movie sets like Narnia, King Kong, The World's Fastest Indian and The Hobbit.
"It's given me a new love for cooking, as you have to be able to cook in any manner of conditions, some which can be challenging, but also the ability to 'free form' cook and an understanding of the chemical nature of food."
The company has been in operation for 23 years and in that time has carved out a reputation as the region's most flexible catering company.
It now boasts six large trucks and a smaller, more mobile, one known as "the Flying Kitchen" for events, and able to serve people coffee and meals.
"There's nothing like getting in a 15-tonne truck during a blizzard, putting chains on it to drive it safely up a mountain to cook full breakfast, lunch buffet and afternoon tea, all in the most beautiful alpine environment.
"Not a lot of people can say they've done that before," Mr Powell said.
Carrot, orange & caraway soup
1kg carrots, peeled and sliced
2 onions, peeled and diced
500ml orange juice
4 Tbs butter
4 tsp caraway seeds
400ml chicken stock
2 shots Aquavit* (optional)
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.
Add onions and saute for two minutes.
Add carrots and saute until carrots are soft, about 15 minutes.
Add caraway seeds and cook for 30 seconds.
Add chicken stock and orange juice.
Cover and simmer until the carrots are tender, about 35 minutes.
If using stick blender, remove from heat and blend soup to a puree. If using food processor, pour soup through a large sieve to separate the solids. Place the carrot/onion portion into a food processor and puree. Once pureed, add back to saucepan and mix.
• Return to heat in a saucepan and bring to simmer, adding more stock if too thick.
• Check seasoning; add a shot or two of Aquavit.
• Garnish with a swirl of cream and a sprig of coriander.
*Aquavit is a Scandinavian caraway liqueur available at some liquor stores or specialty food stores.
"This soup is better made a day in advance, as the perfume of the caraway develops overnight, much like a curry, so allow to cool, cover and refrigerate."