Leave aside TV’s MasterChef competition, Queenstown’s already crowned its best amateur chef.
Lee van der Geest won the inaugural Remarkables Market chef competition on Saturday, narrowly heading off fellow local Naomi Lindsay in a tense two-hour final during the weekly market day at Remarkables Park’s Red Barn.
Winning style: Lee van der Geest dishes up her main course
Judge Peter Thornley, executive chef of Hilton Queenstown’s Wakatipu Grill, awarded Van der Geest 86 points out of 100, just two more than Lindsay.
In a twist, the finalists were each given $20 to buy three ingredients at the market for their entree – Van der Geest prepared a trio of bruschetta and Lindsay a stuffed aubergine.
Van der Geest’s bruschetta will appear on the Wakatipu Grill menu this week.
For their mains both finalists served up a Thai monk fish curry using ingredients in a mystery box.
Van der Geest says the final was so nerve-racking that she was shaking.
“I read lots of cookbooks and did a few practices but because it was a mystery box you couldn’t really practise.
“I’ve always loved cooking but [this competition] discourages me from going into another competition.
“I love to cook at home, but not under pressure.”
Van der Geest’s prize package included $200 to spend at Remarkables Market.
Van der Geest and Lindsay were two of 12 contestants who contested six heats over the summer.
“The competition has been hugely popular with spectators who’ve enjoyed watching all the fun, offering plenty of support and celebrating the wonderful market products we have on offer here,” market manager Sherryn Smith says.
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