Chef shows off New Zealand food

By Korea Herald

New Zealand cooking takes advantage of an abundance of fresh elements

  • Published : Dec 4, 2013 - 19:32
  • Updated : Dec 4, 2013 - 19:32
Guest Chef Shannon Persterer talks during an interview with The Korea Herald at the Millennium Seoul Hilton in Jung-gu, Seoul on Monday. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

Land of the flightless kiwi birds and the majestic landscape that served as the backdrop to the beloved “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, New Zealand is truly a country of natural wonder.

But its picturesque pastures and clear water are more than just scenic; they provide a pristine environment for growing quality ingredients.

“There are many different styles of cuisine in New Zealand, but it mainly comes down to the product. Restaurants base their menu on season,” guest chef Shannon Persterer said during an interview at the Millennium Seoul Hilton in Jung-gu, Seoul.

Persterer, sous chef at the Auckland Hilton, was largely influenced by his Austrian father, who is also a chef.

“My father had a restaurant and we also had a bakery at one time when I was 5 years old. I used to get my hands in the cake and get in trouble,” he said.

His culinary career has taken him all over the world, including to Tiefenbrunner Hotel and Weisses Roessl Hotel in Austria, Coliseum Restaurant in Greece, and Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore.

Persterer was selected by the New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in Korea to showcase fresh ingredients and delectable Kiwi favorites at Cilantro, the all-day buffet at the Millennium Hilton Seoul. The main menu items include New Zealand beef, lamb, salmon, snapper and more.

Asked what he thinks is “quintessential” New Zealand food, instead of talking about specific dishes ― although fish and chips or mince and cheese pies are some favorites ― Persterer talked about fresh ingredients and the environment.

“Our sea is very clean, and our pastures are very green,” Perseter said. “Auckland is populated by about 1.5 million people, which is very small even compared to Seoul. Auckland is the biggest city, but if you drive 30 or 40 minutes you’ll be able to see all green. The funny thing is that even where I live I can drive half an hour one way and see the bush, and if I drive the other way I can go to the beach and go surfing. If you really wanted to go you could also go skiing on the same day.”

New Zealand meat, especially beef, lamb and venison along with fresh seafood and of course, the kiwi fruit, are some of the top exports in the country. Unlike other countries where wide pastures are hard to come by, in New Zealand cattle are not held in pens but allowed to feed freely on green pastures.

“Grass-fed beef and lamb are feeding from wild grass, and wild venison in New Zealand is very famous, and now they are also farmed,” he said.

Low in fat and high in protein, vitamins and iron, venison, the meat of deer, has a gamey taste similar to lamb.

“I couldn’t bring venison (to serve in Cilantro), which is a shame,” Persterer remarked. Along with venison, he was disappointed he could not introduce diners to fresh black currants and the kiwi berry, also known as hardy kiwi fruit, which resembles the usual kiwi but is smaller and eaten whole.

Sauteed New Zealand green-lipped mussels (Millennium Seoul Hilton)
Reflecting on the fresh ingredients available in New Zealand, the menu at Cilantro will feature a clean, simple cooking style.

“I’m just trying to present what comes from New Zealand, our main sources and ingredients that people use on a daily basis,” he said, adding, “If I’m cooking salmon, I want people to actually be able to taste the natural salmon flavors.”

The New Zealand promotion will be available until the end of December. For reservations or inquiries, call (02) 317-3062.

By Cha Yo-rim (