The competition was designed to challenge local restaurants and cafes to create a dish which captures the essence of the Marlborough region.
Tohia Thompsett and the team at the Vineyard Kitchen stepped up to the challenge, putting forward their ‘Marlborough meets Spain – Seafood Paella ‘Kai Moana’; a delicious dish consisting of Marlborough green lip mussels, Cloudy Bay clams, Mediterranean spiced rice and black garlic.
The dish, like all dishes entered into the competition, had to be available to the public on their menu for five weeks during April and May.
During that time, two local foodies visited all 12 participating restaurants, independently scoring each dish before naming their top five. The top five finalists were then visited by Kelli Brett and Ginny Grant of Cuisine Magazine, who judged each of the dishes and selected a winner, to be announced in July.
Tohia’s paella was one of the dishes named in that top five.
“I still can’t believe it really, it was a team effort, everyone put in the hard work to help me tell my story through my dish” she says.
When deciding upon what dish to create and what ingredients to choose, Tohia asked herself what Marlborough meant to her personally.
“It means my Whanau/Family. I come from a very big family and they are a big part of my life here in Marlborough but I also work for a family here, Saint Clair, and they too have become a big part in my life”.
With her family in mind, Tohia found it simple to choose her main ingredients for the dish. Kai moana means so much to her whanau and being such an integral part of their life, she knew that she wanted to make seafood the hero of her dish.
“We live at the beach, when we all come together we all get in the kitchen to fill the tables with what we have gathered from the sea … sharing with each other … so it was easy to pick the main ingredients. The moana part would be the sea mussels and clams.”
On being picked as a finalist, Tohia says it has been a “pretty amazing achievement”.
“It’s been a couple crazy months preparing for this but I’m overwhelmed with the support from my Saint Clair family, I couldn’t have done this without them and their time over this period,” she says.
The Rare Fare winner will be announced in the July edition of Cuisine magazine.