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Gate to plate… to victory

By Chelsea Boyle

[email protected]

At only 22 years of age, Masterton’s Samantha Lee is cooking up quite the reputation.

Miss Lee works at the Ten O’clock Cookie and is the chef behind the dish that won the Judges Choice award of Wairarapa Gate to Plate.

Her winning dish was a Eketahuna Country Meats lamb rump with oven-roasted baby carrots, beets and a cauliflower puree.

Samantha Lee's winning dish. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
Samantha Lee’s winning dish. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

The aim going into the competition was to keep it simple and “nail the basics”, favouring flavour over flash.

However, she was still surprised when they took out first place against other larger restaurants.

“I was quite shocked.”

For a little café to be winning cooking awards is great, especially when they are better known for their baking, she said.

“We are currently best bakery of the year.

“It was great coming back to work [after the Gate to Plate win] because everyone was so excited.”

Owners John and Anneke Kloeg were over the moon, she said.

Miss Lee said their support had been great, and they were all looking forward to upping the ante with the restaurant component of the business.

Cooking is practically a family trade for Miss Lee, who grew up cooking alongside her mum.

Her brother Michael Brill is also a chef and has had a huge influence on her.

“My brother pushed me at a young age to get into it.

“I always fall back on him to help me.”

Miss Lee said she had started out doing work experience in the Pukaha Mount Bruce café.

“It was busy with tourists, so you got to know what it was like to work under pressure.”

She said it had taught her everything from making coffee and cabinet food to service.

This is not her first taste of success — she came second in the Wellington Culinary Fair’s healthy brunch category last year.

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