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Meet The Competitors - Len Baldwin, The Tasting Room - MWFC 2014
Meet The Competitors - Len Baldwin, The Tasting Room - MWFC 2014
We’re very excited about the Monteith’s Wild Food Challenge this year ­ can you tell us about your dish and what has inspired you for this year’s entry?

Len Baldwin

Our dish this year is Gruyere and herb crusted grouper fillet with mushroom duxcelle, scallop infused pasta, pilsner marinated mussels escabeche. It is a dish inspired by Allan Ducasse who wrote the French Menu when I worked on the cruise ship The Royal Viking Sun in the 1990s. His technique for cooking the fish was simple and inspired.

And the beer to match? Why have you chosen that?

Len Baldwin

Monteiths Pilsner is great match for many seafood dishes, its crisp hoppy nature lifts the bold seafood flavours without overpowering with more subtle and elegant notes. Its strong enough to cut through the rich gruyere.

How long have you been involved with the Monteith’s Wild Food Challenge? Generally speaking, do you feel New Zealand restaurants use enough wild produce?

Len Baldwin

I have entered the challenge since the first one in 97’ i think. We’ve won the regional finals several times (over various restaurants) and the Nationals once, we have also won best beer and food match (national) and Best spirit of The Challenge.

It would be great to see more wild game served in restaurants. The Tasting Room has been doing it for a decade now. Sure, sometimes we have to reassure customers to give them the confidence to order some meats / ingredients they may not have seen before, but people are always happy with their selections in the end!

Are you a hunter/gatherer yourself?

Len Baldwin

The restaurants keep me quite busy these days, so I don’t get out as much as id like. But I grew up in a farming community, so spent much of my youth hunting and fishing, and enjoying the rewards with the family.

We’re also keen to learn more about your venue ­ tell us a bit about the place?

Len Baldwin

Essentially The Tasting Room is a new interpretation of the traditional public house, offering the best in modern New Zealand food, beer and boutique wine. Just like traditional public houses we strive to be an important part of the community in which we reside - a hub for dining, socialising, taking drink and making friends.

The Tasting room has become a bit of an icon in Wellington. Its our 10th birthday this month. Happy Birthday to us.!!!

Aside from your own (naturally!) ­ what’s the single best meal you’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying?

Len Baldwin

I have been lucky enough to eat a degustation in the 90s at Fredy Girardets restaurant in Lausanne, Switzerland. He was one of the reasons I started cooking when I was young.

Having said that, When I was working on The Royal Viking Sun it was the #1 cruise ship in the world. We sold more than 25% of the worlds of Beluga Caviar. To cut a long story short, one afternoon after an altercation with a particularly grumpy German Chef I ended up making myself a Beluga Caviar sandwich, it was probably worth about $1500.

What’s the one dish every kiwi should be able to make themselves?

Len Baldwin

Nothing beats a good steak and cheese pie, there are so many simple ways you can throw one together and I'm yet to meet someone who doesn’t like them.

And finally ­ if you were to nab the top prize ($15000 reward), what would you do with it?

Len Baldwin

Buy some Beluga Caviar and start working on next years dish!

Monteith's Wild Food Challenge 2014 - Get Involved!
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Content updated: 19/12/2018 00:48

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