EIT’s trainee chefs recently celebrated the bounty of Hawke’s Bay, artistically presenting their preserves and charcuterie wares at the School of Hospitality’s second annual Locavore at Scholars.
The term locavore was coined some 12 years ago to embrace and promote the ‘local’ element of food production. The movement, aimed at connecting food producers and consumers in the same geographic area, began in San Francisco and quickly spread to countries world-wide.
For Locavore at Scholars students, the emphasis was on sourcing fresh, sustainable, organic Hawke’s Bay produce and adding value by curing, fermenting, smoking and preserving and then selling the food items locally – in this case to staff, students and others on the EIT campus.
All 17 studying EIT’s Level 5 New Zealand Diploma in Cookery (Advanced) took part – twice the number involved last year.
Programme coordinator and chef tutor Mark Caves said the students learnt about urban foraging, sourcing fruit and vegetables from friends and relations and accepting donations from members of staff.
“They also visited the sustainable goat farm Tuki Tuki Goats, Orcona Chillies, Telegraph olivery and Te Koha organic orchard and dined at St George’s winery where chefs use produce from the restaurant’s garden in their dishes.”
For the curriculum’s ‘cold larder’ exercise, the students also learnt about bokashi composting and preservation methods that included smoking, curing, dehydrating, bottling and fermenting.
Mark says these skills may have been neglected in chef training in recent years but they are gaining traction once again.
“Restaurants are recognising the gap in the market and are promoting these items as a point of difference. Fermented products, for example, have become quite a trendy listing on restaurant menus.”
The market was a drawcard event, with a queue extending well out the door as buyers lined up to purchase salami, pastrami, chorizo, sausages, preserved fruit, jams, pickles, chutneys, relishes, cured and smoked salmon, kimchi (Korean fermented cabbage) and much more – all displayed and sold by the students themselves.
The food items were priced to cover the costs involved in the exercise.
For their previous project, the trainee chefs worked on a global street food event, researching and preparing dishes from around the world.
“I decided to bring the study direction back to Hawke’s Bay,” Mark says of the locavore exercise. “Really, the focus was on sustainability and making the most of food items grown in this region.”
“The students were also involved in marketing the event, designing their own labels and selling from their product-packed stalls where they communicated directly with their customers.
“They won’t all necessarily be employed in restaurants,” he points out. “Their careers could be in research and development, artisanal products or in food manufacturing, for example.
“This exercise was about seeing food products through all the stages, from sourcing ingredients, cooking, marketing, selling and communicating with customers – they’re all essential skills for the modern chef.”