2017 Next Gen Ryan Prouting from Chillingworth Road writes about his week with Mentor Marc Soper of Wharekauhau Country Estate.
My week at Wharekauhau was one of the best experiences I have ever done. Ora King was the hero of the whole trip: organising, funding and creating a time to remember. They sent me to work alongside Marc Soper who is one of the best chefs in the country and currently chef of the nation. He was my mentor for a whole week and he taught me things I wouldn’t have even thought about. My objective was to create a Japanese inspired Ora King dish to cook for the Ora Awards launch event.
On arrival I flew into Wellington and drove the hour and a half to the lodge. Marc gave me a rundown of the kitchen, we talked about what I wanted to achieve during the week and he showed me the staff accommodation so I could settle in before jumping into the kitchen the next day. In the morning I started with some prep jobs in the kitchen, working with a few new ingredients that had been picked onsite or foraged from the surrounding area including stinging nettle, sour mandarins, kawa kawa, fennel pollen, sea mustard and fresh kombu.
Over the next few days Marc and I started to create the bones of my dish. I wanted to prepare the salmon in a way that I hadn’t tried before and also to use the whole salmon so there was no wastage. We decided to poach the fillets, then blitz the salmon scraps and turn them into a miso salmon mousse. I really wanted tempura to appear in the dish because it is Japanese and when done well it is great. With that in mind, Marc foraged some tree mushrooms which we cooked wrapped in nori and deep-fried to create tempura battered nori mushrooms.
It wasn’t until the last day before the dish was finalised – I was in the kitchen from 8am until 1.30am but it was worth it!
I learnt so much while I was there that I don’t even know where to start. A few of the components in my dish were things that I hadn’t tried before but wanted to learn; I have done salmon many ways but I wasn’t an expert on poaching fish and I am a lot more confident now. Salmon bonito was something I had never even heard of but it is a good way to utilise the whole fish and it was great! I did a lot of basic knife skills while I was there but it was in bulk and I find doing this is the best way to improve my skills so that helped me so much. I learnt a lot about foraging which is something I love to do, learning what you can and cannot eat, and how best to utilise the produce you forage.
I would like to say a massive thank you to everybody at Ora King for making this happen, everyone at Wharekauhau for having me and all the support back home from the family and the kitchen team at Chillingworth Road.