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It was a big night for Otago at the Cuisine New Zealand Good Food Awards 2017 ceremony in Auckland this week, discovers Rebecca Fox.
Three Otago restaurants have been awarded ''two hats'' in New Zealand's national restaurant awards.
Food identity Fleur Sullivan also received recognition for her contribution to the food scene at the awards on Monday night.
Dunedin's Bracken restaurant, the city's first to win a ''hat'' in 2015, was awarded a second hat, becoming the city's only two ''hat'' restaurant.
Queenstown restaurant Rata, owned by celebrity chef Josh Emett, also achieved its second ''hat'' this year.
''We are very proud that Rata has been awarded two hats this year. The entire Rata team has worked incredibly hard to deliver a consistently excellent dining experience that is contemporary, but remains inspired by the outstanding produce and surroundings of the Otago region,'' Emett said.
They joined Queenstown's Amisfield, which continued its stellar run by retaining its two hats and having executive chef Vaughan Mabee win Otago's only award for the night - the Ora King Salmon Innovation Award.
''Innovation is our favourite award. It's what we do at Amisfield, so we were really proud to take home the award,'' Mabee, Amisfield's chef for the past two years said.
''We're proud to showcase where we live. It suits us. It's been a really great year for Amisfield.''
Otago and Auckland are the only regions to achieve three two hats. Only Auckland (7) and Christchurch (1) have restaurants which have achieved the top ''three hat'' award.
Winners were chosen from a list of New Zealand's top 100 restaurants - previous Otago ''hat'' winners Fishbone, Botswana Butchery and Riverstone missed out this year.
Restaurants are scored out of 20 with one ''hat'' considered good, two great to excellent and three (18/20) ''consistently amazing''.
In a special accolade to celebrate Cuisine magazine's 30th birthday, Sullivan, who owns Fleur's Place in Moeraki, was named as a ''Food Legend''.
Cuisine editor Kelli Brett said it was fitting that Sullivan was honoured.
''Her work to promote locally-sourced produce and foraged ingredients was highlighted on her menu long before these things became trends.''
Queenstown's Sherwood Manor achieved its first ''hat'' this year, as did Two Chefs in Dunedin.
Sherwood co-founder Sam Chapman said he was ''chuffed'' for the team to get recognition from their peers and it was a tribute to the support of the local community.
This year, regional restaurants stood out with the top award going to Napier's Pacifica.
''The wave of chefs recognising the importance of using ingredients from their regions and refining their preparation techniques to let the quality of those ingredients speak for itself continues to build,'' chief judge Kerry Tyack said.