Local produce wows celebrity chefs

Cameraman Michael Belfast puts British celebrity chefs (from left) Paul Rankin and Nick Nairn in the frame during filming of Paul and Nick's Big Food Trip on the Taieri yesterday. Photos: Linda Robertson
Cameraman Michael Belfast puts British celebrity chefs (from left) Paul Rankin and Nick Nairn in the frame during filming of Paul and Nick's Big Food Trip on the Taieri yesterday. Photos: Linda Robertson
When it comes to creating a list of the most admirable qualities of Otago, few would expect greengages to come up.

But British television celebrity chefs Paul Rankin and Nick Nairn reckon Otago grows some of the best they have ever tasted.

The duo were in Dunedin yesterday, as part of their tour of New Zealand, filming their latest season of Paul and Nick's Big Food Trip.

Mr Rankin (58) was the first Northern Ireland chef to win a Michelin star; and Mr Nairn (59) was the youngest Scottish chef to win a Michelin star.

Following five seasons of the show in Britain, Canada and the United States, they are now creating culinary dishes as they follow a trail of Ulster Scots and Scottish people who were among New Zealand's early settlers.

During each episode, they meet the descendants of a chosen settler, and cook them a three-course meal using the finest local ingredients, while they tell the story of the Ulster Scot or Scottish settler.

The chefs were in Dunedin yesterday, filming descendants of Ulster Scot Presbyterian minister the Rev Rutherford Waddell (1850-1932) who made his mark in New Zealand history by giving a sermon in 1888 that transformed the lives of thousands of the lowest paid workers in the region.

They also filmed descendants of the Rev Thomas Burns (1796-1871), nephew of poet Robbie Burns, and religious leader of the Otago region.

In essence, the show was equal parts travel-log, cookery and history, the men said.

Both were delighted by the quality of produce in Otago.

''You have some of the finest produce here that we've ever, ever, ever seen,'' Mr Rankin said.

Mr Nairn agreed. It was ''off the scale - brilliant''.

''We were cooking a dessert using greengages. Greengages in Scotland are usually under-ripe and tart. These were super sweet and had amazing depth of flavour.

''We turned them into clafoutis, which is a French dish.

''We've both been around the block a few times and we've probably eaten at the world's best restaurants, but this was the best clafoutis we've ever had.''

They were also sad to admit that Otago lamb rivalled, if not bettered, Scottish lamb.

''It pains me to say it,'' Mr Nairn said.

They were also impressed by Otago's scenery - particularly Mr Rankin.

''Every time you go around a corner, you go wow. It's seriously spectacular.

''I quite fancy working in an Otago winery and setting up a restaurant or something.

''If anyone is interested in having a Michelin star chef, they can contact me any time.''

The latest season of the show is set to air overseas in April and it was hoped it would be picked up by a New Zealand broadcaster soon after.

john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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