An unorthodox fusion of New Zealand King salmon and Turkish baklava has earned Cordis Auckland chef Eda Tunc the grand title of 2023 Australasia Tapas Champion.
Held yesterday at Ignite Colleges in Manukau, the culinary cookoff saw 29 chefs from both sides of the Tasman battle it out for the chance to represent Australasia at the World Tapas Competition in Valladolid, Spain later this year. The calibre was high and competition was stiff, but Eda’s creation ‘Baklava For All’ was the undisputed winner, gaining top points across all categories including presentation, originality, flavour and business potential.
Eda’s surprising tapas dish combined a New Zealand King salmon mousse with lemon horopito syrup, kawakawa green oil and the popular Turkish drink ayran to create a baklava unlike any other. Garnished with sea grapes and served in a cocktail glass, it was an instant hit with the seven-strong judging panel which included acclaimed chefs Simon Gault and Michael Meredith.
“‘Baklava for All’ stood out due to its innovative fusion of Turkish and New Zealand culinary traditions, showcasing a unique and harmonious flavour profile that challenged culinary norms,” says judge and E Spain organiser for the World Tapas Competition, Angel Moreton.
“Ultimately, the dish’s innovative flavours, cultural significance and skillful execution made it the clear winner.”
Inspiration for the dish came from Eda’s Turkish heritage teamed with her desire to showcase New Zealand’s world-class ingredients.
She says, “I wanted to bring Turkish and New Zealand culinary traditions together, to celebrate the harmonious marriage of two distinct but equally delicious worlds – and I also wanted to push the boundaries of traditional recipes and challenge the norms of what can be combined in a single dish.”
In November the 28-year-old will be winging her way to Valladolid Spain to represent Australasia at the World Tapas Champs – and she couldn’t be prouder.
“I feel so flattered to be able to represent Australasia in Spain and show the world how amazing Turkish baklava can be when you combine it with unique New Zealand ingredients. I believe this is a dish that will appeal to everyone, no matter what culture they are from, and that’s exactly why I named it ‘Baklava For All’.”
Although Eda may have taken out the top spot in yesterday’s competition, there was plenty of other talent to wow the judges. Stephen Sami from Cassia was awarded second place for his spectacular togarashi-coated shell with ropa vieja and black garlic, and Jaehoon Eom (Havana Bar and Restaurant) whipped up a beef tartare flamenco dish that earned him the Cutting Edge Tapa award. Meanwhile Gurujodh Singh from The Union Post was awarded Best Tapa Concept for his snapper olive egg with aged chorizo and romesco gel garnished with furikake potato paper.
Now in its fifth year, competition organiser and Strategic Partnership Association Vice President for Skills, Chef Jasbir Kaur, says the quality of entries just keeps getting better. And that’s saying something considering the 2018 competition winner Chef Sheyun (Dani) Chun was crowned World Tapas Champion in Spain, and last year’s New Zealand winner Chef Frederick Wong earned second place at the world competition. It’s fair to say, when it comes to tapas, Aotearoa chefs are among the best on the planet.
“This year’s competition showcased an incredible level of talent and innovation,” says Jasbir. “The chefs brought their A-game, pushing the boundaries of creativity and flavour. It was truly impressive to see how each dish told a unique story and reflected the culinary diversity that defines New Zealand’s tapas scene.”
For Jasbir, it is this storytelling that really sets the Australasia Tapas Competition apart from other culinary contests.
“As a chef who has been both a competitor and organiser of tapas competitions, I’ve learned that the true magic of these events lies in their ability to blend creativity, culture and community on a single plate. Each competition is not just a culinary showdown, but a celebration of artistry and passion that fuels our kitchens, bringing together chefs and food enthusiasts in a delightful dance of flavours and innovation.
“It’s not just about winning or losing; it’s about the connections we forge, the stories we tell through food, and the ever-evolving tapestry of taste that defines the New Zealand tapas scene.”
The 2023 Australasia Tapas Competition was sponsored by E-Spain, UNOX, HTT (Hospitality Training Trust), Great Taste NZ and
Nestlé, with special thanks to Vutter, Olive Black, Puhoi Distillery and Education New Zealand.