It’s not every day a restaurant has two of New Zealand’s top chefs in the kitchen, so it was a real treat to fly down to Palmerston North to attend Scott Kennedy’s Ambassador Series dinner. Scott had fellow Ambassador Chef, Shaun Clouston from Logan Brown in Wellington as a guest chef and together they put on a collaborative evening showcasing their innovation and talent using New Zealand beef and lamb.
The dinner marked a very special announcement which has only occurred a handful of times. Both Scott and Shaun were inaugurated as Platinum Ambassador Chefs for Beef + Lamb New Zealand for their outstanding contribution as Ambassador Chefs over the past ten plus years.
Both their passion and skill with locally sourced produce have put them at the forefront of the New Zealand food scene and this dinner was a chance to showcase their talent to a select few who managed to get tickets. They had everything covered from classic cuts such as beef sirloin to the more unusual creations of lamb cheeks and beef tendons.
The first course was a triumphant paring of whiskey and beef, overlaid with the umami flavour of the furikake butter topped with a crispy textured beef tendon. This dish - seared Whiskey dry aged Wakanui sirloin with furikake butter and puffed beef tendons with porcini salt was tender, delicious and has become a signature dish of Scott’s since his acquisition of a dry ager which sits proudly at the entrance to his restaurant. Considering I am not a fan of whiskey I was surprised how much the subtle whiskey flavour came through to highlight the beefy flavour of the sirloin – simply delicious!
Next up was a dish by Shaun - Coastal Spring Lamb loin and cheek, sprouted legumes, coriander and date chutney. This featured moist slices of lamb loin with that lovely subtle spring lamb flavour highlighted by the sweet date chutney and a fresh balance of flavour brought about by the coriander. The lamb cheek was a first for me and it was delicious with a different texture not unlike a sweetbread and a rich deep flavour in contrast to the loin.
Hop-braised beef short rib, smoked carrot purée, saffron and alliums is a signature dish of Shaun’s which he has cooked in many variations over the years. Tonight the intense rich flavour of the beef was matched with the earthy flavour of a smooth carrot purée. Visually this dish was stunning as it was garnished with delicate edible flowers atop the dark glossy beef short rib.
Scott finished the protein courses with a BBQ lamb rack, roasted garlic, pea purée, sweetbreads, pulled lamb shoulder. This was another visual feast featuring a colourful array of ingredients enhancing the tender cooked lamb cutlet and delicious rich shoulder. The highlight on this plate was the tender sweetbread with its crispy outer and the tangy mint gel which pulled all the flavours together. To showcase three different lamb cuts on the one plate without one out shining the other really showcases Scott’s skill for his craft as a chef.
Dessert was a treat – coconut, meringue and lemon, with the textures and fresh flavours of lemon refreshing the palate and rounding the evening off very nicely.
All in all it was a wonderful evening of celebrating two talented chefs and to experience and savour first-hand the innovative way they work with New Zealand beef and lamb.