Culinary Team New Zealand
New Zealand's chefs have emulated the achievement of the powerful All Blacks rugby team last autumn by recording a hard earned victory in Wales.
The Kiwi chefs triumphed in the Battle for the Dragon contest at the Welsh International Culinary Championships hosted by Coleg Llandrillo Cymru, Rhos-on-Sea yesterday (Thursday).
After three days of cooking in hot kitchens, New Zealand emerged victorious with a gold medal, whilst the Welsh National Culinary Team had to be content with silvers and Croatia with bronzes.
The contest, organised by the Welsh Culinary Association, was the showpiece event at the hugely successful Welsh International Culinary Championships, sponsored by the Welsh Assembly Government to promote the food and drink industry brand 'True Taste'. Hybu Cig Cymru/ Meat Promotion Wales also jointly sponsor the Battle for the Dragon contest.
New Zealand's elated manager Gary Miller said: "Winning the competition is a great reward for 15 months of hard work, training and effort. It just goes to show that hard work does pay off."
He thanked everyone associated with the competition for their excellent hospitality and help and said he was impressed by the organisation.
Welsh team captain Wayne Roberts, head chef at Portmeirion Hotel, Portmeirion, said: "There is no disgrace in losing to a very good New Zealand team. We used the Battle for the Dragon as a practice ground for our junior team that is competing in Scotland in a fortnight.
"Hopefully it will hold them in good stead for ScotHot, as the feedback from the judges was very positive and it has given us some areas to improve.
Croatia team member Berislav Lackovic said the contest was part of the learning process for the team, which was formed only eight months ago. "It was nice to take part in this competition and it's important that we learn from our mistakes to build a team," he added.
The three countries went to battle in a Restaurant of Nations hot kitchen competition over three days, each being allocated three hours to produce a mouthwatering three-course meal for 90 people under the supervision of a panel of international judges.
Wales opened the competition on Tuesday cooking pork as their main course followed by Croatia on Wednesday cooking Welsh Beef and New Zealand on Thursday cooking Welsh Lamb.
The other Welsh team members were Gary Griffiths from The Quay Hotel and Spa, Deganwy, Erin Deering from Coleg Llandrillo Cymru, David Kelman from Lower Slaughter Manor, Stow-on-the-Wold, Gennaro Adaggio from La Dolce Vita, Shrewsbury and Tom Middleton from Hotel Maes-y-neuadd, Talsarnau, Harlech.
Endorsed by the World Association of Chefs' Societies (WACS), the Battle for the Dragon contest was introduced in 2006. Previous winners were Germany, Wales and Sweden.
The championships, which attracted chefs from across the UK for a series of exciting competitions, are designed to celebrate the nation's culinary skills and food.
Welsh Culinary Association chairman Peter Jackson paid tribute to the outstanding support given to the championships this year by Coleg Llandrillo Cymru, the judges and the organising committee.
The Battle for the Dragon awards were presented by Adam McDonnell, the Welsh Assembly Government's agri food regional manager, who said: "Excellent events like this reinforce the important message that quality food production and the hospitality sector underpin the rural economy and culture of Wales."
Gert Klotzke, former manager of the all conquering Swedish culinary team and a WACS Culinary Committee member, was on the Battle for the Dragon judging panel. He praised the Welsh Culinary Association for encouraging young chefs from colleges across Wales and England to compete at the championships.
"We don't do that in the Nordic countries and I think it's a marvellous idea because it helps to improve their skills and gives them confidence," he said. "I have been very impressed by the competitions and have learnt a lot during my visit.
"I think Peter and his team are doing a really good job and the Welsh chefs are improving all the time. But to compete with the world's top four teams, you need a lot of money and sponsors."
Other sponsors of the Welsh International Culinary Championships are C&C Catering, Coleg Llandrillo Cymru, Clwyd Refrigeration, Welsh National Culinary Team, Dick Knives, Brakes, M & J Seafoods, Ecolab, Nestle Professional, Bwydlyn, Villeroy & Boch, H.N. Nuttall Ltd, iPebble, Llandudno Fruit Renaissance, Flogas, Farmers' Union of Wales, Unilever/Knorrr and Imperial Hotel.