Wild food challenge

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CHALLENGE: Wild Food Challenge founders Bill and Sarah Manson, with daughter Grace, are looking forward to the next Whakatane Wild Food Challenge. Photo Andy Taylor

BILL Manson, creator of the Local Wild Food Challenge, is heading back to the Eastern Bay for a third Whakatane event next month.

Founded in 2008, the Local Wild Food Challenge is a culinary adventure competition designed to showcase the resourcefulness of local people living in communities where wild food is available.

From one small contest held in the Eastbourne pub, near Wellington, nine years ago there are now eight challenges running in five counties across the world.

The idea first came to Bill after he returned with his family from living overseas and working extensively in the culinary industry.

“The idea had been in my head for some time,” he says, “and a mate owned the local tavern, so we advertised with flyers and posters and about 25 people entered the competition and the pub was packed with spectators.

“We set up a couple of barbecues, and a prep table, and had a fridge the pub let us use.

“People brought in paua, deer, crabs, kingfish, and eel, among many other ingredients.

Someone even made wild blackberry ice-cream and put caramelised cicadas over the top of it. And gorse flowers in cordial. First prize was a trip to the Martinborough Hotel and a bottle of bubbly.”

That first event was won by a professional chef, but Bill was more impressed with a woman who entered a venison pie; she had not only devised and cooked the pie but shot, gutted and cut up the beast herself.

After that he decided judging would take effort into account, so it became a level playing field for amateurs and professionals alike.

The Whakatane challenge has gone from strength to strength in the past two years and with the resourcefulness of the local people, Bill is looking forward to seeing how it evolves this time around.

This year it is being held at Ohope Beach allowing for a festival feel, surrounded by beautiful pohutukawa and views of the ocean and bush.

“With live music, activities for the kids, food demonstrations and more, this is the ideal setting to celebrate the Bay’s abundance of wild food and the people who hunt and gather it to prepare their own unique culinary specialties.”

The Wild Food Challenge is open to home cooks, hunter-gatherers, professional chefs, restaurants, fishermen, caterers, children and others.
Competitors simply have to include at least one wild ingredient in their end dish.

The dishes are judged according to four criteria – effort, taste, ingredients and presentation – with multiple prize categories.

Would-be wild cooks can register at www/localwildfoodchallenge.com/register-to-compete or at the venue on the day.