Lamb and duck snacks win epic battle

A spiced lamb, salsa, and tapioca cracker snack, crafted by a Tauranga sous chef and a tertiary tutor mentor, has captured the tastebuds of one of the nation’s top food critics.

Sugo restaurant’s Aditya Raut, supported by Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology mentor Shane Yardley, claimed Cuisine magazine’s Judge’s Choice Award during the Battle of the Snack finale, held on the first day of the annual Flavours of Plenty Festival.

Cuisine editor Kelli Brett says the tasty entry highlighted Aditya’s Indian heritage and his initial culinary arts training there. He’s more recently trained at Toi Ohomai and has worked in Auckland and several popular Tauranga eateries. 

“One of the key reasons for developing the Battle of the Snack concept was our desire to recognise and encourage young chefs, so it was a thrill to watch our fantastic mentor chefs working alongside their young protégés to deliver over 1,400 snacks in one night!

“Aditya’s winning snack is a testament to his creativity and skill set, delivering the perfect bite under the watchful eye of mentor chef Shane. This win means they’ll both earn national exposure in the September issue of Cuisine, alongside our Cuisine Good Food Awards winning chefs for 2024,” Kelli says.

Diners at the ticketed Battle of the Snack event were asked to vote for the People’s Choice Award, which went to Papa Mo’s junior sous chef Kristian So’e who presented a curried duck rillette croquette with coconut ketchup. Kristian was supported by mentor Neil Sapitula, executive chef at Saltwater Seafood Bar & Grill and Solera.

“A highlight throughout this event was tasting a glimpse of the future within the layers of each snack. Kristian’s duck rillette was the perfect example of a traditional classic cleverly turned on its head – with strong guidance from Neil – using innovative and unexpected flavours,” Kelli says. 

The Battle of the Snack was a flagship event for co-host Tourism Bay of Plenty as it manages its third Flavours of Plenty Festival, featuring nearly 50 different foodie events across its coastal region.

“We love the buzz that it always brings to our region’s hospitality sector at this time of the year,” festival director Rae Baker says.

“The Battle of the Snack was one of the first events to sell out. It was a fantastic evening and our guests enjoyed savouring 12 beautifully crafted snacks.

“Saltwater was a superb host venue. The open kitchen adds a special element and DJ Ayesha Kee made sure the place was pumping. We feel incredibly lucky to have four of our region’s most experienced chefs willing to mentor four brilliant up-and-coming future chefs. It’s a perfect blend when they ensure that everyone has a load of fun in the process.

“We’re also grateful to local producers Henlee, Wilderkin Spirits, Mount Brewing Co., and Leveret & Mills Reef Winery who generously donated their beverages to this event,” Rae says.