Meet The 2019 Beef + Lamb Ambassador Chefs

Beef + Lamb New Zealand have announced their five Ambassador Chefs for 2019 to act as figureheads to drive innovation and creativity within the foodservice sector. The appointments follow the announcement of the 173 Beef and Lamb Excellence Award holders for 2019, with the ambassadors selected from some of the highest rated restaurants during the assessments.

The five selected for the coveted roles are left to right; Freddie Ponder (Table Restaurant, New Plymouth), Pablo Tacchini (Cucina, Oamaru), Jarrod McGregor (Rothko at Sculptureum, Matakana), Andrew May (Amayjen the Restaurant, Feilding), and Scott Buckler (No. 31 Restaurant, Hanmer Springs).

Freddie Ponder, Head Chef at Table Restaurant in New Plymouth, is returning to the ambassadorial role for a second year. Freddie said: “You only have to look at some of the high-profile names that have been Beef + Lamb Ambassador Chefs over the years to know what an honour it is.

The Beef + Lamb Ambassador Chefs’ roll of honour looks like a who’s who of Kiwi culinary trailblazers, with the quintet following in the footsteps of some of New Zealand’s most celebrated chefs. Peter Gordon, Ben Bayley, Sid Sahrawat, Kate Fay and Rex Morgan are just a few of Aotearoa’s finest that have featured in an ambassadorial capacity for Beef + Lamb New Zealand over the 23 years of the Beef and Lamb Excellence Awards.

Lisa Moloney has been Food Service Manager for Beef + Lamb New Zealand for over 12 years, overseeing the Ambassador Chef programme. Lisa said: “This year’s ambassadors have been selected not just because they are fantastic chefs, they were identified because of their creativity, dedication and excitement for cooking with beef and lamb.

“Their purpose is simple; to inspire a network of likeminded chefs to move forward, try something new and showcase what amazing creations are possible with beef and lamb.”

Kiwi food fanatics looking to sample the very best the ambassadors have to offer will be able to attend an Ambassador Series Dinner, hosted at each of chef’s restaurant, with each chef being paired with a Platinum Ambassador Chef to create a unique beef and lamb dining experience.


The Ambassador Chefs and Their Dishes

Jarrod McGregor - Rothko at Sculptreum, Matakana

Jarrod is head chef at Rothko at The Sculptureum in Matakana.  Jarrod is 28 years old and has been cooking in and around Auckland since the age of 15. He took up an apprenticeship through the Restaurant Association and Jason Blackie at Sails in Westhaven took him under his wing for the first few years of his cooking career.

Since then Jarrod has worked with great chefs like Nick Honeyman, James Pask and Tom Hishon. He landed his first head chef role at the age of 24 and has been developing his own style ever since then.

Jarrod takes inspiration for his dishes from the fertile land and sea that surrounds Rothko.  He likes to source the best ingredients he can find locally in Matakana and has a great relationship with a few excellent meat suppliers from the South Island. Jarrod describes his style as simplistic with large bold flavours and a lot of the time, unusual pairings.

This is the first time Jarrod has received the Beef and Lamb Excellence Award and excelled to a point where he was invited to be a first-time Beef + Lamb Ambassador Chef for 2019. 

Dish description: Flaxbourne Pure lamb rump, caramelized cauliflower, umeboshi vinaigrette

Dish story: The inspiration behind this dish was learning how to make umeboshi from scratch last year from one of Rothko’s Japanese chefs. Ume are a Japanese fruit that have a distinctively sour taste.  They are similar to an apricot or a plum. Umeboshi are pickled ume fruits and Jarrod says they used and saved all parts from this process and made ume infused miso, umeboshi vinegar and also used the fruit itself.

Umeboshi is traditionally eaten with rice but Jarrod wanted to play around and see how they could use it in a way to serve on a dish. He found the sharpness of the ume pairs perfectly with the richness of New Zealand lamb. A roasted cauliflower puree was a natural fit to round off this dish but they also used the ume miso to bring a more umami flavour to the dish.



Pablo Tacchini - Cucina, Oamaru

Pablo is originally from Argentina where he trained at the culinary institute, Mausi Sebess for two and a half years. He worked in Argentina in different restaurants for more than five years before coming to New Zealand for a holiday with his wife and young son.  They fell in love with New Zealand, especially Oamaru and after being offered a job as a chef they decided to stay and make New Zealand home.

Pablo worked at restaurants around the Otago region before taking over as head chef at Cucina 1871. About two years ago the opportunity came about for Pablo and his wife to buy the restaurant.  They changed the name to Cucina, upgraded the decor and changed the food style to what it is now.

Pablo’s style of cuisine is a reflection of what he grew up eating with his family every day. Part of his family comes from Italy and the other part from Spain, so when he mixes these two influences with his Argentinian culture, his style of cuisine gets very interesting. 

Dish description: 55-day aged rib eye, broccoli & lemon purée, charcoal potatoes, smoked sour cream & smoked red pepper sofrito. (sofrito – a Spanish word meaning to lightly fry something)

Dish story: Pablo's dish is inspired by his Argentinian heritage where they love to cook with big bold meaty cuts of beef and lamb.  These cuts lend themselves well to be cooked over an open flame and take on the smokey charcoal flavours this creates.  Pablo created this dish by cooking his aged rib eye on a portable charcoal bbq and finishing the dish with a sprinkling of hay ash.  



Freddie Ponder - Table Restaurant, New Plymouth

Freddie Ponder is originally from the UK but calls himself Kiwi proud. He is a passionate chef, husband, father and surfer and has been head chef at Table Restaurant since May last year. Prior to this Freddie was at Salt on the Waterfront for three and a half years where he successfully ran the kitchen team as well as achieving some great culinary accolades during his time there.  

Freddie says he feels extremely lucky and blessed to live in Taranaki and is inspired by the beautiful scenery he is surrounded by, especially the lush green grass growing amazing beef and lamb. He loves to pop in to surrounding farms to source locally grown, fresh ingredients for his dishes in between taking the kids surfing or skateboarding. 

With his twin brother Richard as sous chef, the rest of his kitchen and front of house team, Table Restaurant is a great playground to be creative with New Zealand beef and lamb.  With such a great team and restaurant owners behind him, Freddie says every day is wonderful.

This is Freddie’s second time as a Beef and Lamb Ambassador Chef and he says it was a wonderful experience to work with Beef and Lamb New Zealand during 2018.  To become an Ambassador Chef once again in 2019 – “it’s like wow in chef talk, time to smash it!”

Dish description: Smoked eye fillet with BBQ short rib, beetroot three ways, goats’ cheese & basil jelly.

Dish story:  Inspired by his surroundings, Freddie says the idea for this dish came late at night looking at the crazy-red West Coast sunset and smelling the delicious aromas of a late-night BBQ going on down the road.  Eye fillet has such a beautiful flavour, and with a quick smoke to finish if off gives the aroma of a backyard BBQ.  The short rib’s amazing, juicy texture will be like a beef experience in itself and the colours and flavours of beetroot work perfectly for my crazy, red sunset.



Scott Buckler - No.31 Restaurant, Hanmer Springs

Scott is originally from the South West of England and has been in New Zealand for around six years. Coming to New Zealand was a key turning point in Scott’s career where he landed his first head chef role on the West Coast at Franz Josef.  He then returned to England to learn front of house, becoming an assistant manager.

With the extra training under his belt, Scott then returned to New Zealand and headed up to Motueka, Nelson and worked in Kaiteriteri in the Abel Tasman National Park. Here, he had the opportunity to learn and manage a fast-pasted kitchen environment. After this, it was a move to Christchurch to join the new hospitality scene in at a start-up restaurant.

When an opportunity came up at the Alpine Village of Hanmer Springs, Scott jumped at the chance to join the team at No. 31 Restaurant and continue the award-winning reputation they have in the surrounding area.  Scott is very appreciative to everyone who has mentored him throughout his journey here and is very proud of where it has got him today. Now adding the accolade of becoming a Beef and Lamb Ambassador Chef to his name, Scott is excited to have the opportunity to excite and inspire other chefs in their careers. 

Dish description: Merino Lamb Loin, truffle pommes anna, braised shoulder, pea and horopito purée, manuka salted pistachio crumb, mint and rosemary jus

Dish story: Merino lamb roams freely throughout the Southern Alps grazing on wild herbs and native grasses.  This free-range lifestyle creates a lean, tender meat with a refined flavour.  Scott wanted to showcase a breed of lamb that he feels isn’t used often enough.  He also wanted to bring the outdoor feel together with the addition of some native flavours



Andrew May - Amayjen, Fielding

Originally from Palmerston North, Andrew has been in the Hospitality Industry for over 20 years.  He moved to the United Kingdom in 1992 and travelled extensively throughout Europe and Zimbabwe where he extended his repertoire whilst discovering new ingredients and techniques.

After his travels he then settled in Scotland and began working as head chef in one of Scotland’s top country house hotels, The Kinloch House Hotel, which is a member of Relais and Chateau.  During this time Andrew had some of his recipes published in the UK edition of ‘A Taste of Relais and Chateaux 97” and in 2009 he won the ‘Chef of the Year’ title in Scotland.

In 2010, Andrew and his family moved back to the Manawatu to pursue their dream of owning their own restaurant.  Andrew opened Amayjen the Restaurant (pronounced Imagine) with his wife Jenni in 2014. With the beginning of their new culinary story in New Zealand, their main goal was to become one of Manawatu’s finest eating establishments. To do this Andrew focused on cooking and serving his food in a modern and innovative way using the freshest local ingredients that were already right on his doorstep, to keep the locals coming back for more.

Andrew has developed his style at Amayjen, gaining accomplishments and awards in his own right. He feels at home in the kitchen but if he’s not creating dishes, you’ll often find him out foraging for ingredients, including a variety of wild fruits, herbs and flowers to add a personal touch to his dishes.

Andrew and Jenni are proud to have gained five Beef and Lamb Excellence Award gold plates since opening Amayjen in Feilding. Andrew is now excited to be spending 2019 as a Beef + Lamb Ambassador Chef and looks forward to inspiring other chefs to create the best beef and lamb dishes they can.

Dish description: smoked beef cheek with sticky glaze, cauliflower and truffle emulsion, pickled carrots and crushed garlic tuile. 

Dish story: Andrew loves to create a bit of theatre for his guests and to also involve the front of house staff in this process.  He says its not only about creating wonderful dishes full of flavour and texture, its about bringing a bit of theatre to the table to make a memorable dining experience.  By involving the front of house in this process they can take the passion from the kitchen out to the table. 



To see the list of 2019 Beef + Lamb Award Holders click here