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'Food heroes' celebrated at Farmers' Markets

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Out Standing in their Fields has kicked off to celebrate New Zealand's food heroes at 18 Farmers' Markets around the country, showing off the nation's best and brightest farmers, artisan producers and chefs who have put our nation on the map. MasterChef Brett McGregor, Jonny Schwass, Julie Biuso and Chef of the Year David Schofield are among the chefs showing locals and visitors "just how great genuine Kiwi cooking is," according to project manager Kylie March.

New Zealand is becoming as renowned for excellent food and wine as it is for rugby and hobbits. The cooking shows, aptly called "Out Standing in their Fields", allude to the dedication of our local food producers, the quality of what they produce. Unlike many other festivals, this one is free to anyone to attend and even offers crowds a sample of what's being cooked on the day.

So far the festival has shown that, like many other great food nations, we actually have our own unique regional cultures influencing our cuisine. Wellington Chef of the Capital Marc Soper waxes lyrical about his region's diversity: "Wellington is such a busy little city, very much like the San Fran of USA. Loads of different cultures, like a huge melting pot of yummy food, passionate people and talented chefs?there is always something going on."

Restaurant Personality of the Year Jonny Schwass cooked up platters of local seasonal nibbles for Christchurch Farmers' Markets crowds last Saturday.

"What I love about Canterbury is the people. Their ability to adapt to new challenges and to see the positive in often very negative situations. I love the rural connection the city has with its country cousins?Canterbury is my home and produces the best food I have had the pleasure to prepare in my 25 years of professional cooking."

Farmers' Markets NZ is steering the shows as part of the REAL New Zealand Festival 2011, to encourage more dollars to stay within our borders. Farmers' Markets NZ Chairperson Chris Fortune believes that "supporting Farmers' Markets means supporting local producers and communities, developing relationships between both producers and consumers."

Schwass takes this relationship personally, adding that cooking local "supports the small farmers and gives them and their families a future. It is a great way to connect with the season of the region and food culture we have for our region. Ultimately it just tastes better to cook with food sourced as close to the stove as possible."

To reward Farmers' Market shoppers, each show will draw a "Market VIP", who gets prioritised and special tastings. Christchurch's VIP and 14 year old chef-in-the-making Alex Cathro was thrilled to meet Jonny Schwass, a long time idol and source of culinary inspiration. Alex's mother Sally loves how early Christchurch Farmers' Market gets Alex out of bed on a Saturday morning, and their family are now recognised regulars.

Various businesses have jumped up to support New Zealand's transition to a food image more in line with our "clean green" one, including Interislander, Taste Magazine, FMG Insurance, and The Breeze, which will also be broadcasting the shows and offering prizes to listeners.

"I think we have come a long way from fish and chips, but I still love them" comments Soper, but then adds that real NZ food to him means "clean fresh flavours prepared to the best of the chefs ability, with wholesome honest product and integrity."

Kiwi food bloggers have also caught wind of the grass roots cooking events, with Two Spoons blogger Zo Zhou stating she is "really excited about where these shows will take New Zealand's food image, especially overseas."

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